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Earth’s Atmosphere

  • Earth’s Atmosphere

    The protective blanket of air that covers the Earth is called the atmosphere. The Earth’s atmosphere not only prevents too much heat from entering the planet, but also protects us from asteroids and meteors. The Earth’s gravity helps hold the atmosphere in place. Quick Q’s: 1. What is a barometer? A barometer is used to measure the pressure in the atmosphere. When the pressure is high, the weather will be fine, sunny and still. When it is low, the weather will be stormy. When the pressure increases the liquid in the barometer is squeezed and when the pressure decreases it is released. This change is recorded. 2. What is the exosphere? The exosphere is the final layer of the Earth’s atmosphere. It extends way into outer space. The air in the exosphere is very thin, but the temperature is very high, because the Sun’s rays shine directly on it. 3. Why is the ozone layer important? The ozone layer is important because it stops harmful ultraviolet rays from the Sun from reaching the Earth. If the rays are allowed through the atmosphere, they can cause severe health problems like skin cancer. Chemicals called CFCs have made a hole in the ozone layer above the North and South Poles. Q How many layers does the Earth’s atmosphere have? A The Earth’s atmosphere is composed of several layers. These include the troposphere and the stratosphere. Each layer is divided according to the temperature and density of air in that layer.

     

    What are the gases that make up the Earth’s atmosphere? A The Earth’s atmosphere is composed of many gases. Nitrogen is the main gas found in the atmosphere. It accounts for about 78 per cent and oxygen makes up 21 per cent. The remaining one per cent is a combination of carbon dioxide and water vapour. There are also very small amounts of trace gases like neon and helium that go to make up the Earth’s atmosphere. Planet Earth Earth’s Atmosphere The protective blanket of air that covers the Earth is called the atmosphere. The Earth’s atmosphere not only prevents too much heat from entering the planet, but also protects us from asteroids and meteors. The Earth’s gravity helps hold the atmosphere in place. Quick Q’s: 1. What is a barometer? A barometer is used to measure the pressure in the atmosphere. When the pressure is high, the weather will be fine, sunny and still. When it is low, the weather will be stormy. When the pressure increases the liquid in the barometer is squeezed and when the pressure decreases it is released. This change is recorded. 2. What is the exosphere? The exosphere is the final layer of the Earth’s atmosphere. It extends way into outer space. The air in the exosphere is very thin, but the temperature is very high, because the Sun’s rays shine directly on it. 3. Why is the ozone layer important? The ozone layer is important because it stops harmful ultraviolet rays from the Sun from reaching the Earth. If the rays are allowed through the atmosphere, they can cause severe health problems like skin cancer. Chemicals called CFCs have made a hole in the ozone layer above the North and South Poles. Q How many layers does the Earth’s atmosphere have? A The Earth’s atmosphere is composed of several layers. These include the troposphere and the stratosphere. Each layer is divided according to the temperature and density of air in that layer. 26 A warm blanket The Earth is protected by layers of gases. SOHO sends information about these layers back to Earth. Long way out The outer layers of the atmosphere extend far into space. Reflected radiation by atmosphere Infrared radiation emitted by Earth Absorbed radiation Reflected radiation by Earth’s surface Q What is the significance of the troposphere in the weather pattern? A The troposphere is the layer closest to the Earth’s surface, and it is here that weather is created. Air in the troposphere rises and falls, helping to form clouds, rain and snow. This layer stretches about 8–14.5 kilometres (5–9 miles) above sea level

    Dangerous additions The pollution of the atmosphere by factories and vehicles is creating a dangerous hole in the protective ozone layer above the Earth and increasing the Earth’s temperature. It also makes people fall ill more often.

    How does the stratosphere help us? A The stratosphere is the layer just above the troposphere. It extends upwards from the troposphere to about 50 kilometres (31 miles) above the Earth’s surface. Compared to the troposphere which is full of moisture, the stratosphere is dry. The stratosphere contains the ozone layer. Ozone absorbs harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. Q Is the temperature the same in the different layers of the atmosphere? A The temperature in the troposphere is between -52 and 17 °C (-62 to 62 °F). The temperature in the stratosphere is about -3 °C (26 °F). The next layer up, called the mesosphere, is very cold. The temperature here is as low as - 93 °C (-135 °F). In the outer layers of the atmosphere the temperature starts to rise again, because there is more heat from the Sun. Temperatures in the outer layer can be as high as 1,727 °C (3,140 °F). Earth’s Atmosphere When the Earth gets hotter The atmosphere protects us from the Sun’s heat by reflecting a lot of it back into space. However, some gases in the atmosphere trap some of this heat, keeping the Earth warm even at night. This process is called the greenhouse effect and the gases that cause it are known as greenhouse gases. These gases include water vapour, carbon dioxide, and CFCs. Humans are adding carbon dioxide and CFCs to the atmosphere all the time. Too much heat is being trapped, and the Earth is getting warmer. Global warming is leading to the melting of glaciers and polar ice caps and an alarming rise in sea levels. It will change the Earth as we know it. 27 Dangerous additions The pollution of the atmosphere by factories and vehicles is creating a dangerous hole in the protective ozone layer above the Earth and increasing the Earth’s temperature. It also makes people fall ill more often. A hole above our heads For over 20 years, scientists have noticed an expanding hole (seen here in pink over the South Pole) in the ozone layer above each of the poles. This is due to the increasing use of chemicals that go into our refrigerators and aerosol cans. The hole means we have less protection from the ultraviolet rays of the Sun. These harmful rays can cause skin cancer.