The atmosphere is the layer of gases that surrounds the Earth and is held in place by gravity. It is composed of nitrogen, oxygen, and trace amounts of other gases. The atmosphere plays a crucial role in regulating the Earth’s temperature and protecting it from harmful radiation. However, human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation have led to an increase in greenhouse gases, causing climate change and other environmental problems.
Blanketing the Earth is a thick layer of air that protects us from radiation from the Sun, falling meteors and toxic gases. This blanket, known as the atmosphere, has three layers. Without it, our Earth would be like any other planet – extremely hot or cold, pockmarked and lifeless. Three cheers for the atmosphere!
Atmosphere Facts for Kids
- The atmosphere encircles Earth like a blanket.
- It consists of five main layers.
- Air we breathe is mostly nitrogen (78%).
- Oxygen makes up about 21% of the air.
- Atmospheric pressure decreases as you go up.
- The ozone layer protects us from harmful rays.
- Weather occurs in the lowest layer, troposphere.
- Earth’s blue sky results from atmospheric scattering.
- The stratosphere contains most ozone.
- Air temperature varies across atmospheric layers.
Isaac Newton and Atmospheric Physics
Isaac Newton’s laws of motion and universal gravitation have greatly informed our understanding of Earth’s atmosphere. His second law, which posits that force equals mass times acceleration, underpins the field of fluid dynamics. This is fundamental for grasping how air masses move, which in turn influences weather patterns. Additionally, Newton’s law of universal gravitation elucidates why atmospheric pressure decreases with altitude. Collectively, these principles make Newton’s theories central to Atmospheric Physics.
What are the five main layers of Earth’s atmosphere?
The five main layers of Earth’s atmosphere are the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, and exosphere. The troposphere is closest to the Earth’s surface and contains most of the planet’s weather. The stratosphere contains the ozone layer, which protects the Earth from harmful UV radiation. The mesosphere is the layer where meteors burn up upon entering the atmosphere. The thermosphere is the layer where the Northern and Southern Lights occur. The exosphere is the outermost layer and merges with outer space.
What are the main gases that makeup Earth’s atmosphere?
The main gases that make up Earth’s atmosphere are nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%), and argon (0.9%). Other gases, such as carbon dioxide, neon, helium, and methane, make up the remaining 0.1%. These gases play a crucial role in regulating the Earth’s temperature, protecting us from harmful radiation, and providing the necessary elements for life to thrive.
What is the role of the atmosphere in regulating Earth’s temperature?
The atmosphere plays a crucial role in regulating Earth’s temperature by trapping heat from the sun and preventing it from escaping into space. The greenhouse effect, caused by gases such as carbon dioxide and water vapor, helps to maintain a stable temperature range that is suitable for life on Earth. However, human activities such as burning fossil fuels have increased the concentration of these gases, leading to global warming and climate change.
How does the atmosphere protect life on Earth from harmful radiation?
The Earth’s atmosphere serves as a protective shield against harmful radiation from the sun and space. The ozone layer, located in the stratosphere, absorbs most of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, preventing it from reaching the Earth’s surface and causing harm to living organisms. Additionally, the atmosphere’s gases, such as carbon dioxide and water vapor, trap heat and regulate the planet’s temperature, creating a habitable environment for life to thrive.
What are some of the ways in which humans are impacting Earth’s atmosphere?
Humans are impacting Earth’s atmosphere in numerous ways. Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, leading to global warming and climate change. Industrial processes emit pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, contributing to acid rain and smog. Deforestation reduces the number of trees that absorb carbon dioxide, while agriculture and livestock farming produce methane and other greenhouse gases. These human activities are altering the composition of the atmosphere, with potentially devastating consequences for the planet.
What is the temperature and pressure of the troposphere?
The troposphere is the lowest layer of the Earth’s atmosphere, extending from the surface up to about 7-20 km. The temperature of the troposphere decreases with altitude, at a rate of about 6.5°C per kilometer. The pressure also decreases with altitude, following an exponential decrease. At the top of the troposphere, the temperature is around -55°C and the pressure is about 10% of the pressure at sea level.
What are the main gases found in the stratosphere?
The main gases found in the stratosphere are ozone (O3), nitrogen (N2), and oxygen (O2). Ozone is particularly important as it absorbs harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun, protecting life on Earth. The concentration of these gases varies with altitude, with ozone being most abundant in the upper stratosphere.
What is the ozone layer and how does it protect life on Earth?
The ozone layer is a protective layer of gas in the Earth’s atmosphere that shields the planet from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. It is formed by the interaction of oxygen molecules with UV radiation. Without the ozone layer, life on Earth would be exposed to dangerous levels of UV radiation, which can cause skin cancer, cataracts, and other harmful effects.
What is the aurora borealis and how is it formed?
The aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, is a natural light display in the sky that occurs in high-latitude regions. It is formed when charged particles from the sun collide with atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing them to emit light. The colors of the aurora borealis depend on the type of atom and the altitude of the collision.
What is the exosphere and what role does it play in protecting Earth from harmful radiation?
What is the average temperature of the atmosphere?
The average temperature of the atmosphere at Earth’s surface is 14 °C (57 °F; 287 K) or 15 °C (59 °F; 288 K), depending on the reference. However, this average varies greatly from place to place. For example, the average temperature in the Arctic is -20 °C (-4 °F), while the average temperature in the Sahara Desert is 30 °C (86 °F).
What is the highest and lowest recorded temperatures on Earth?
Highest recorded temperature: 134.1 °F (57.0 °C), Death Valley, California, USA (July 10, 1913)
Lowest recorded temperature: −128.6 °F (−89.2 °C), Vostok Station, Antarctica (July 21, 1983)
What is the average air pressure at sea level?
The average air pressure at sea level is 1013.25 millibars (mb). This is equivalent to 29.92 inches of mercury (Hg) or 760 millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
What is the average wind speed on Earth?
The average wind speed on Earth is 10 meters per second (22 miles per hour). However, wind speed can vary greatly from place to place. For example, the average wind speed in the Sahara Desert is 20 meters per second (45 miles per hour), while the average wind speed in the Amazon rainforest is 2 meters per second (4.5 miles per hour).
What is the average humidity of the atmosphere?
The average humidity of the atmosphere is 20%. This means that the air contains 20% water vapor. However, humidity can vary greatly from place to place. For example, the average humidity in the Sahara Desert is 10%, while the average humidity in the Amazon rainforest is 90%.
What is the average amount of rainfall on Earth?
The average amount of rainfall on Earth is about 990 millimeters (39 inches) per year. However, this amount varies greatly from place to place. For example, the driest place on Earth is the Atacama Desert in Chile, which receives an average of only 1 millimeter (0.04 inches) of rainfall per year. The wettest place on Earth is Mawsynram in India, which receives an average of 11,873 millimeters (467.4 inches) of rainfall per year.
What are the different types of clouds?
Clouds come in many shapes and sizes, but they can be classified into three main types: stratus, cumulus, and cirrus. Stratus clouds are low and flat, often covering the entire sky and bringing drizzly weather. Cumulus clouds are puffy and white, often signaling fair weather but can also bring thunderstorms. Cirrus clouds are thin and wispy, found at high altitudes and often indicating a change in weather patterns.
What are the different types of weather?
Weather can be classified into several types, including sunny, cloudy, rainy, snowy, windy, and stormy. Sunny weather is characterized by clear skies and warm temperatures, while cloudy weather is marked by overcast skies and cooler temperatures. Rainy weather brings precipitation in the form of rain, while snowy weather brings snowfall. Windy weather is characterized by strong winds, and stormy weather can bring thunderstorms, lightning, and other severe weather conditions. Understanding the different types of weather can help individuals prepare for and stay safe during various weather events.
What are the different types of storms?
Storms come in many forms, including thunderstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, and hailstorms. Thunderstorms are characterized by lightning, thunder, and heavy rain, while hurricanes are large, rotating storms with strong winds and heavy rain. Tornadoes are violent, rotating columns of air that can cause significant damage, and blizzards are severe winter storms with heavy snow and strong winds. Hailstorms produce hail, which are balls of ice that can range in size from small pellets to large golf balls.
What are the different types of climate zones?
Fun Facts About the Atmosphere for Kids
- There are five layers within the atmosphere. The troposphere, the stratosphere, mesosphere, ionosphere and exosphere are the layers of the atmosphere.
- The troposphere lies closest to the Earth and is about 11 miles thick. This layer contains most of the air and oxygen in the atmosphere. Our weather is formed in the troposphere. Water evaporates from land to become rain or snow. Winds bring warm or cool weather.
- The stratosphere lies above the troposphere and goes up about 30 miles high. The ozone layer is in the stratosphere. The ozone protects us from harmful rays from the Sun.
- The mesosphere is the next layer, reaching 50 miles from the Earth. This layer of the atmosphere is very cold – about -180 degrees Fahrenheit. Brrrr! Here is where most meteors burn up. Without this layer, our Earth would be pocked like the Moon and other planets.
- The ionosphere extends 430 miles above the Earth and is considered outer space. It is very thin and very cold. An electrical layer created by ions is found here which is used to transmit radio waves. This electrical layer also causes the Northern Lights.
- High above the Earth is the exosphere, the final layer of our atmosphere. This layer extends into space. Solar winds compress it and push it down. When the winds are still, this layer can extend more than 6,000 miles into space.
The Atmosphere Vocabulary
- Radiation: harmful rays
- Toxic: poisonous
- Pockmarked: covered with holes or bumps
- Lifeless: without life
- Evaporate: the process by which liquids become gases when exposed to heat
All About the Atmosphere Video for Kids
Check out this cool video about the Earth’s Atmosphere for kids:
The Atmosphere Q&A
Question: Can the atmosphere be damaged?
Answer: Chemicals and pollution can damage the atmosphere.