Dynamic Planet

Want to learn live? Enroll in ScioCamp.
Course content was made from ScioVirtual Dynamic Planet lead faculty, including:
Michelle Li, the Dynamic Planet captain for Mason HS Science Olympiad. Michelle is one of the most experienced and highly-rated teachers at ScioVirtual, teaching Dynamic Planet (Oceanography and Hydrology) as well as Earth Science Fundamentals.
Jean Chung, a national Science Olympiad medalist from Ward Melville High School and freshman at Duke University. Jean taught Earth Science Fundamentals and Dynamic Planet (Hydrology).
Jingyu Xiao is an officer at Carmel High School Science Olympiad. Jingyu is a 2x national medalist in Dynamic Planet, and was also a qualifier for the United States Earth Science Olympiad camp. In her free time, Jingyu likes to paint and play with her cats.
Akshar Cowlagi is a rising junior at Huron High School in Ann Arbor Michigan. Akshar is a two-time United States Earth Science Olympiad qualifier for camp and has competed in dynamic planet for 5 years. Outside of studying Akshar likes to play tennis and watch TikTok.
Akshat Aggarwal, captain of WW-P North Science Olympiad and freshman at Princeton University. Akshat is an invaluable team member, teaching Dynamic Planet and serving as former Partnerships Director at ScioVirtual.
Shreyash Singh, a national medalist (including third place in Meteorology) and camper at US Earth Science Olympiad. Shreyash has taught multiple courses in Astronomy and Meteorology and Dynamic Planet at ScioVirtual.
Rohan Das, treasurer of WW-P South Science Olympiad. Rohan has taught Earth Science Fundamentals with Jean and Michelle and Dynamic Planet with Akshat.
Teaching Manning’s equation in ScioVirtual’s Introductory Dynamic Planet course.
Teaching Manning’s equation in ScioVirtual’s Introductory Dynamic Planet course.

In a nutshell, Dynamic Planet is an event about processes that change the Earth.

The “process” that is focused on changes from year to year; it rotates between glaciers, oceanography, hydrology, and tectonics. The topic for the 2021-22 season was hydrology, and the projected topic for 2022-23 is tectonics.

Dynamic Planet is a pure study event, so your success is determined solely by your ability to master a broad range of information and create a quality resource binder. So, here are my top study links and practice tests for each topic.

❄️ Glaciers

Glaciers was last in rotation in the 2018-19 season. Glaciers are large masses of ice and snow that have accumulated over years of snowfall and have flowed at some point in their lifetime.

Here’s an example of my cheatsheet from when Dynamic Planet was still a cheatsheet event. My formatting was a bit questionable then, but I still think it’s a good measure of the content needed for a Division B test.

Keep in mind that Dynamic Planet is about processes and change; the bulk of test questions that weren’t ID-ing types of glaciers and glacial features were about glacial erosion, sediment transport, or changing climate in ice ages.

My favorite test from this season was probably the MIT Invitational, which is a public test set, so feel free to access it using the link above. (Note: Dynamic Planet rules are usually the exact same for Division B and Division C, so even if you’re Division B, you can still use Division C tests to study! I actually recommend these for higher-level competitors, as they’re usually higher quality.)

🌊 Oceanography

Oceanography was last in rotation in 2020-21. I divided this event into three large content areas: general ocean information such as properties and structure, features and processes related to the ocean, and ways in which water moves which included waves and tides.

To the right is an Event Resource Sheet created for ScioVirtual’s oceanography class with links organized by these three content areas. These are the same sources used by national-level competitors to study.

A good public set this year was Princeton. I also really liked the Yale oceanography test from the 2019-20 season, but unfortunately this one isn’t public — ask your team captains if they have it.

Below, are some resources from ScioVirtual classes. They are a perfect fit if you’re a beginner looking to be introduced to the content in a streamlined and interactive way.

1️⃣ Properties and Structure of the Ocean

⬆️ Composition of seawater and properties such as temperature and salinity

⬆️ Three layer structure of the ocean and the five zones of the ocean

2️⃣ Features and Processes Related to the Ocean

⬆️ Tectonics, estuaries, coastal processes, and topographic features

⬆️ More tectonics plus coral reef formation, ecology, and threats due to climate change

3️⃣ Ways Water Moves Within the Ocean

⬆️ Waves, currents and deep ocean circulation, and tides

⬆️  Coriolis effect, Ekman and geostrophic balances, El Niño and La Niña

If you want to check your understanding of the content in the above presentations but aren’t ready for competition-level tests yet, try this quiz from the class! This is from the Advanced Oceanography class, so some concepts might be unfamiliar, but you should know most of it.

🌧 Hydrology

Hydrology was the topic for the 2021-22 season. This event was all about Earth’s freshwater, ranging from rivers and lakes to groundwater and wetlands. Rivers and groundwater especially cause large changes to our planet through weathering, erosion, and deposition. Here are some good links from this season.

A difficult and high-quality test this season was from BirdSO Mini. Also, check out a test I wrote for the Mason Invitational!

Additionally, below there is an image of the Official Science Olympiad Rules from this year, which details the topics you should study for the event. I’ve highlighted the topics I think are most important based on frequency of appearance in tests. Not that you should study last minute, but if you had to, these are the topics you should focus on to maximize score.


Now, you want to dive into miscellaneous topics that are not explicitly stated in the rules, but are closely related and could still show up on tests. To aid you in your search for miscellaneous topics to research, here are some that I’ve seen often on tests: biogeochemical cycles, wells and the cone of depression, classification of lakes – by salinity, mixing, amount of organic matter, etc., and notable lakes, rivers, and aquifers.

🏔 Tectonics

This topic is the most difficult to predict, since it hasn’t been in rotation since 2017-18. It is the projected topic for next year, but regardless, plate tectonics is a key Earth science principal that you should at least have a general grasp of as an Earth science competitor.

When studying for old topics that have been out of rotation, I usually start by taking notes on the Scioly Wiki page for the year it was last in rotation. Also, whenever you see something on the Wiki page that is unfamiliar/not explained very in-depth, you should do your own Google search.

Afterwards, I try to find old practice tests that might give me a better idea of what the event encapsulates. For this, the MIT Invitational is especially helpful because their test archives go back to 2015. Tectonics was the Dynamic Planet topic in both 2017-18 and 2016-17, so I’d say both of those tests are worth checking out.