Earth’s atmosphere is a slim blanket of gases and tiny corpuscle — together referred to as air. We room most conscious of air as soon as it moves and also creates wind. Every living things require some that the gases in air for life support. There is no an atmosphere, earth would most likely be just another lifeless rock.

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Earth’s atmosphere, in addition to the numerous liquid water in ~ Earth’s surface, space the secrets to our planet’s distinctive place in the solar system. Lot of what makes earth exceptional counts on the atmosphere. Let’s take into consideration some of the reasons we space lucky to have an atmosphere.

INDISPENSABLE because that LIFE on EARTHWithout the atmosphere, earth would watch a lot an ext like the Moon. Atmospheric gases, specifically carbon dioxide (CO2) and oxygen (O2), space extremely necessary for life organisms. How does the environment make life possible? just how does life transform the atmosphere?

In photosynthesis plants use CO2 and create O2. Photosynthesis is responsible because that nearly every one of the oxygen at this time found in the atmosphere. By producing oxygen and food, plants have made an setting that is favorable for animals. In respiration, animals use oxygen to convert sugar into food power they can use. Plants likewise go through respiration and consume some of the sugars they produce.


CRUCIAL part OF THE WATER CYCLEAs part of the hydrologic cycle, which was detailed in the Earth’s fresh Water chapter, water safety a many time in the atmosphere, mostly as water vapor.All weather takes ar in the atmosphere, virtually all of it in the reduced atmosphere. Weather describes what the environment is choose at a certain time and also place, and also may include temperature, wind, and precipitation. Weather is the adjust we experience from day come day. Climate is the long-term median of weather in a particular spot. Back the weather for a certain winter day in Tucson, Arizona, may include snow, the climate that Tucson is typically warm and dry.


OZONE LAYER provides LIFE POSSIBLEOzone is a molecule written of 3 oxygen atoms, (O3). Ozone in the upper setting absorbs high-energy ultraviolet (UV) radiation coming native the Sun. This protects living things on Earth’s surface ar from the Sun’s many harmful rays. Without ozone for protection, just the most basic life creates would be able to live ~ above Earth.MODERATES earth TEMPERATURE together with the oceans, the atmosphere keeps Earth’s temperatures in ~ an acceptable range.Greenhouse gases trap warmth in the atmosphere so they help to moderate an international temperatures. There is no an environment with greenhouse gases, Earth’s temperatures would certainly be frigid in ~ night and scorching throughout the day. Crucial greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, water vapor, and also ozone.

Atmospheric Gasses


COMPOSITION the THE ATMOSPHERENitrogen and oxygen together make up 99 percent that the planet’s atmosphere. The rest of the gases room minor components however sometimes are an extremely important. Humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air. Humidity different from ar to place and also season to season. This fact is evident if you compare a summer job in Atlanta, Georgia, wherein humidity is high, with a winter job in Phoenix, Arizona, whereby humidity is low. As soon as the air is very humid, the feels hefty or sticky. Dry air commonly feels an ext comfortable.Where approximately the world is average atmospheric water vapor greater and whereby is that lower and why? greater humidity is found around the equatorial regions since air temperatures are greater and heat air can hold more moisture than cooler air. The course, humidity is reduced near the polar regions since air temperature is lower.

Some that what is in the environment is not gas. Particles of dust, soil, fecal matter, metals, salt, smoke, ash, and also other solids make up a tiny percentage of the atmosphere. Corpuscle provide beginning points (or nuclei) because that water vapor to condense on and type raindrops. Part particles space pollutants, which are disputed in the human Actions and also the environment chapter.


ATMOSPHERIC PRESSURE and also DENSITYThe setting has different properties at different elevations above sea level, or altitudes. The air thickness (the variety of molecules in a provided volume) reduce with raising altitude. This is why world who rise tall mountains, such as Mt. Everest, have actually to collection up camp at various elevations to let their bodies acquire used to the diminished air.Why walk air density decrease through altitude? gravity pulls the gas molecules in the direction of Earth’s center. The pull of gravity is more powerful closer come the center at sea level. Air is denser at sea level whereby the gravitational traction is greater.Gases at sea level are also compressed through the weight of the atmosphere above them. The pressure of the waiting weighing down over a unit that area is well-known as its atmospheric pressure. The reason why we space not crushed by this weight is because the molecules within our bodies room pushing exterior to compensate. Atmospheric push is felt from every directions, not just from above.

At greater altitudes the atmospheric pressure is lower and the wait is less dense than at greater altitudes. If your ear have ever before “popped”, you have experienced a adjust in air pressure. Gas molecules are uncovered inside and also outside your ears. Once you readjust altitude quickly, like when an aircraft is descending, your inner ear keeps the thickness of molecule at the original altitude. Ultimately the air molecules inside her ear suddenly move through a small tube in your ear come equalize the pressure. This sudden rush of air is felt as a popping sensation.

Although the density of the atmosphere alters with altitude, the composition stays the exact same with altitude, with one exception. In the ozone layer, at about 20 km to 40 km above the surface, there is a greater concentration the ozone molecules 보다 in other portions the the atmosphere.

Layers of the Atmosphere


The setting is layered, equivalent with just how the atmosphere’s temperature transforms with altitude. By understanding the method temperature alters with altitude, we deserve to learn a lot about how the atmosphere works. While weather takes location in the lower atmosphere, amazing things, such together the beautiful aurora, happen higher in the atmosphere.

Why does warm air rise? Gas molecules room able to relocate freely and also if they room uncontained, together they room in the atmosphere, they have the right to take up an ext or much less space.

When gas molecules are cool, they are sluggish and do not take increase as lot space. Through the same number of molecules in much less space, both wait density and also air pressure are higher.When gas molecules room warm, they relocate vigorously and take up an ext space. Wait density and also air pressure are lower.

Warmer, lighter wait is much more buoyant than the cooler air above it, so it rises. The cooler air climate sinks down, due to the fact that it is denser 보다 the air beneath it. This is convection, which was explained in the bowl Tectonics chapter.

The building that transforms most strikingly with altitude is wait temperature. Uneven the change in pressure and density, i m sorry decrease v altitude, changes in wait temperature room not regular. A adjust in temperature with distance is called a temperature gradient.

The environment is split into layers based upon how the temperature in the layer changes with altitude, the layer’s temperature gradient. The temperature gradient of each layer is different. In some layers, temperature boosts with altitude and also in rather it decreases. The temperature gradient in every layer is established by the heat resource of the layer. Many of the essential processes of the atmosphere take location in the lowest 2 layers: the troposphere and the stratosphere.


TROPOSPHEREThe temperature that the troposphere is highest possible near the surface ar of the Earth and decreases v altitude. ~ above average, the temperature gradient that the troposphere is 6.5oC per 1,000 m (3.6oF per 1,000 ft.) that altitude. What is the resource of heat for the troposphere? Earth’s surface ar is a major source of warmth for the troposphere, return nearly all of that heat comes from the Sun. Rock, soil, and water on earth absorb the Sun’s light and radiate it earlier into the atmosphere as heat. The temperature is also higher near the surface due to the fact that of the greater density of gases.Notice the in the troposphere warmer waiting is in ~ cooler air. What execute you think the consequence of this is? This condition is unstable. The warmth air near the surface ar rises and cool air higher in the troposphere sinks. So air in the troposphere walk a most mixing. This mixing reasons the temperature gradient to vary with time and place. The rising and also sinking of waiting in the troposphere means that every one of the planet’s weather takes ar in the troposphere.

Sometimes over there is a temperature inversion, wait temperature in the troposphere boosts with altitude and also warm waiting sits end cold air. Inversions are really stable and may last for numerous days or even weeks. They form:

Over land at night or in winter as soon as the soil is cold. The cold floor cools the air the sits above it, do this short layer of air denser than the air above it.Near the coast where cold seawater cools the air above it. As soon as that denser air move inland, that slides in ~ the warmer air over the land.
STRATOSPHEREAsh and gas indigenous a large volcanic eruption might burst right into the stratosphere, the layer above the troposphere. When in the stratosphere, it stays suspended there for many years because there is so little mixing in between the 2 layers. Pilots favor to paris in the lower portions of the stratosphere due to the fact that there is small air turbulence.In the stratosphere, temperature rises with altitude. What is the heat resource for the stratosphere? The direct heat source for the stratosphere is the Sun. Wait in the stratosphere is stable due to the fact that warmer, less thick air sits over cooler, denser air. Together a result, over there is tiny mixing the air in ~ the layer.The ozone layer is discovered within the stratosphere in between 15 come 30 kilometres (9 come 19 miles) altitude. The thickness the the ozone layer varies by the season and additionally by latitude.

The ozone great is incredibly important because ozone gas in the stratosphere absorbs many of the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Because of this, the ozone class protects life top top Earth. High-energy UV light penetrates cells and also damages DNA, leading to cell fatality (which we recognize as a negative sunburn). Biology on planet are not adjusted to heavy UV exposure, which kills or damages them. Without the ozone layer come reflect UVC and UVB radiation, most complex life on planet would not survive long.

MESOSPHERETemperatures in the mesosphere decrease v altitude. Because there are couple of gas molecule in the mesosphere come absorb the Sun’s radiation, the heat source is the stratosphere below. The mesosphere is incredibly cold, particularly at its top, about -90 degrees C (-130 levels F).

The air in the mesosphere has extremely low density: 99.9 percent of the massive of the atmosphere is below the mesosphere. Together a result, air pressure is very low. A human being traveling through the mesosphere would experience severe burns from ultraviolet light due to the fact that the ozone great which gives UV security is in the stratosphere below. There would be almost no oxygen because that breathing. Stranger yet, one unprotected traveler’s blood would boil at regular body temperature because the pressure is therefore low.

THERMOSPHEREThe thickness of molecule is so low in the thermosphere that one gas molecule deserve to go around 1 km prior to it collides with another molecule. Since so little energy is transferred, the waiting feels an extremely cold. Within the thermosphere is the ionosphere. The ionosphere it s okay its name from the solar radiation the ionizes gas molecule to produce a positively charged ion and one or much more negatively fee electrons. The freed electrons take trip within the ionosphere as electrical currents. Due to the fact that of the totally free ions, the ionosphere has numerous interesting characteristics. At night, radio tide bounce off the ionosphere and earlier to Earth. This is why friend can frequently pick increase an to be radio station much from its source at night.The van Allen radiation belts room two doughnut-shaped area of highly charged corpuscle that are located beyond the setting in the magnetosphere. The particles originate in solar flares and also fly to earth on the solar wind. When trapped by earth magnetic field, they follow follow me the field’s magnetic present of force. These lines expand from over the equator come the north Pole and additionally to the southern Pole then go back to the equator.

When huge solar storms cause the valve Allen belts to end up being overloaded with particles, the result is the many spectacular feature of the ionosphere — the aurora. The particles spiral along magnetic field lines towards the poles. The fee particles energize oxygen and nitrogen gas molecules, resulting in them to irradiate up. Each gas emits a particular color of light.

There is no real external limit come the exosphere, the outermost class of the atmosphere; the gas molecule finally come to be so scarce the at some allude there room no more. Beyond the setting is the solar wind. The solar wind is made of high-speed particles, largely protons and electrons, traveling rapidly outside from the Sun.

ENERGYEnergy travels through room or material. This is noticeable when girlfriend stand close to a fire and also feel its warm or once you choose up the handle of a steel pot also though the take care of is not sitting straight on the warm stove. Invisible energy waves can travel v air, glass, and even the vacuum of external space. These waves have electrical and also magnetic properties, so they are dubbed electromagnetic waves. The deliver of energy from one thing to one more through electromagnetic tide is well-known as radiation. Various wavelengths of energy produce different types of electromagnetic waves.The wavelengths humans have the right to see are known as “visible light.” these wavelengths appear to us as the colour of the rainbow. What objects have the right to you think of the radiate clearly shows light? Two encompass the Sun and also a irradiate bulb.The longest wavelength of visible light appear red. Infrared wavelengths are longer than visible red. Snakes deserve to see infrared energy. We feel infrared energy as heat.Wavelengths that are shorter than violet are dubbed ultraviolet.

Can friend think of some objects that appear to radiate visible light, but actually carry out not? The moon and the planets do not emit irradiate of their own; lock reflect the light of the Sun. Reflection is when light (or another wave) bounces back from a surface. Albedo is a measure up of how well a surface shows light. A surface ar with high albedo shows a huge percentage the light. A snow ar has high albedo.

One crucial fact come remember is that power cannot be created or ruined — it deserve to only be adjusted from one kind to another. This is together a basic fact that nature that it is a law: the law of preservation of energy.

In photosynthesis, for example, plants convert solar energy into chemical power that they deserve to use. They carry out not create brand-new energy. When power is transformed, some almost always i do not care heat. Heat transfers between materials easily, native warmer objects come cooler ones. If no more heat is added, eventually every one of a material will with the exact same temperature.

TEMPERATURETemperature is a measure of how fast the atoms in a material are vibrating. High temperature corpuscle vibrate quicker than low temperature particles. Quickly vibrating atom smash together, which generates heat. As a product cools down, the atom vibrate an ext slowly and collide less frequently. As a result, castle emit much less heat. What is the difference in between heat and also temperature?Temperature measures how quick a material’s atoms room vibrating.Heat measures the material’s complete energy.

Which has higher heat and which has greater temperature: a candle flame or a tub full of hot water?

The fire has greater temperature, yet less heat, since the hot an ar is an extremely small.The bath tub has reduced temperature however contains much more heat because it has many much more vibrating atoms. The tub has greater total energy.

HEATHeat is bring away in or exit when an item changes state, or transforms from a gas come a liquid, or a liquid to a solid. This warmth is called latent heat. When a substance transforms state, latent warmth is released or absorbed. A substance that is transforming its state of issue does not adjust temperature. Every one of the power that is exit or took in goes toward an altering the material’s state.

For example, imagine a pot of cook water on a stove burner: that water is at 100 levels C (212 levels F). If you increase the temperature the the burner, an ext heat beginning the water. The water continues to be at its boil temperature, however the added energy walk into transforming the water from liquid to gas. With much more heat the water evaporates an ext rapidly. When water alters from a liquid to a gas it takes in heat. Because evaporation takes in heat, this is called evaporative cooling. Evaporative cooling is one inexpensive method to cool residences in hot, dry areas.

Substances likewise differ in their specific heat, the quantity of energy needed come raise the temperature that one gram the the product by 1.0 levels C (1.8 degrees F). Water has actually a an extremely high particular heat, which way it bring away a lot of of energy to readjust the temperature that water. Let’s to compare a puddle and also asphalt, for example. If you are walking barefoot top top a clear day, which would you quite walk across, the shallow puddle or one asphalt parking lot? since of the high specific heat, the water remains cooler 보다 the asphalt, even though the receives the exact same amount that solar radiation.

The earth constantly make the efforts to keep an energy balance with the atmosphere. Most of the energy that get the earth surface comes from the Sun. Around 44% that solar radiation is in the visible light wavelengths, yet the Sun likewise emits infrared, ultraviolet, and also other wavelengths. When viewed together, every one of the wavelength of visible light show up white. Yet a prism or water droplets have the right to break the white irradiate into various wavelengths therefore that separate colors appear.

Of the solar energy that will the outer atmosphere, UV wavelengths have actually the best energy. Only about 7 percent the solar radiation is in the UV wavelengths. The three varieties are:

UVC: the highest power ultraviolet, does not reach the planet’s surface ar at all.UVB: the second highest energy, is additionally mostly quit in the atmosphere.UVA: the lowest energy, travels through the environment to the ground.

The staying solar radiation is the longest wavelength, infrared. Most objects radiate infrared energy, which us feel together heat. Some that the wavelength of solar radiation traveling through the atmosphere may it is in lost because they are absorbed by assorted gases. Ozone fully removes UVC, many UVB and some UVA from incoming sunlight. Oxygen, carbon dioxide, and also water vapor likewise filter out some wavelengths.

Heat moves in the setting the same way it moves v the solid earth (Plate Tectonics chapter) or one more medium. What adheres to is a testimonial of the way heat flows and also is transferred, but used to the atmosphere.

Radiation is the transport of energy between two objects by electromagnetic waves. Heat radiates from the ground right into the reduced atmosphere.

In conduction, warm moves from locations of an ext heat to areas of less heat by straight contact. Warmer molecule vibrate rapidly and also collide v other surrounding molecules, delivering their energy. In the atmosphere, conduction is much more effective at reduced altitudes wherein air density is higher; transfers warm upward to where the molecules room spread more apart or transfers warmth laterally indigenous a warmer to a cooler spot, whereby the molecules space moving much less vigorously.

Heat deliver by movement of heated products is called convection. Heat that radiates native the ground initiates convection cell in the atmosphere.

HEAT AT earth’s SURFACEAbout half of the solar radiation that strikes the top of the atmosphere is filtered out prior to it reaches the ground. This power can be took in by atmospheric gases, reflected by clouds, or scattered. Scattering occurs as soon as a light tide strikes a particle and bounces turn off in some other direction.

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About 3% the the power that strikes the floor is reflected earlier into the atmosphere. The remainder is took in by rocks, soil, and water and then radiated earlier into the air together heat. This infrared wavelengths can only be seen by infrared sensors. Because solar energy continually enters earth atmosphere and also ground surface, is the planet getting hotter? The answer is no (although the following section has an exception) due to the fact that energy from planet escapes into room through the height of the atmosphere. If the amount that exits is equal to the amount the comes in, then average worldwide temperature remains the same. This method that the planet’s heat spending plan is in balance. What happens if an ext energy come in 보다 goes out? If more energy walk out than comes in?

To say the the earth’s heat budget is balanced ignores critical point. The amount of just arrive solar energy is various at different latitudes). Where perform you think the many solar energy ends up and why? whereby does the the very least solar energy end up and why? The difference in solar energy received at different latitudes cd driver atmospheric circulation.