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Atmosphere Study Sheet

by Class 603

Layers of the Atmosphere

1. Troposphere
- next to Earths surface, up to 16 kilometers.
- more dense (90% of total mass of the atmosphere)
- almost all of Earths CO2, water vapor, and clouds
- air pollution, weather, and life forms are found here
2. Stratosphere
- from 16-50 km above Earth
- air is very thin and contains little moisture
- extremely cold (60 degrees Celsius below zero) in the lower
- this is because of Ozone (O3)
- the Ozone layer absorbs solar energy (UV
[ultraviolet] rays)
- as the Ozone layer is destroyed, UV rays are let in
3. Mesosphere
- the coldest of all the layers in the atmosphere (temperature
drops with increasing altitudes)
- large winds up to speeds of 320 km/h.
4. Thermosphere
- uppermost layer; 80-600 Km from Earth
- temperature increases with altitude
- temperature may reach 1,700C
- despite the high temperature, it does not feel hot
5. Ionosphere
- Located in the upper mesosphere and the lower thermosphere
- nitrogen and oxygen atoms absorb harmful solar energy such as
x-rays and gamma rays
- ions radiate energy at different color lights
- these lights are called the Aurora Borealis

Composition of the Atmosphere

- Nitrogen: 78% from volcanic eruptions, dead plants, and animals
- Oxygen: 21% produced by plants
- Other gases: 1% argon, CO2, water vapor, and other gases
- Water droplets in clouds
- dust, volcanic ash, sea salt, dirt, smoke
Air Pressure: measure of the force with which air molecules push on the
surface (units: mb or millibars)
- higher altitude=less air pressure
Heating of the Atmosphere
1. Radiation: energy transferred as electromagnetic waves
- 2-billionth the other is energy produced by the sun
- Of the energy that reaches Earth...
- 50% is absorbed by Earths surface
- 25% is scattered and reflected by clouds and air
- 20% is absorbed by ozone, clouds, and atmospheric gases
- 5% is reflected by Earths surface
2. Conduction: transfer of thermal energy from one material to another
through direct contact
- ex: walking barefoot on hot ground
- air is heated by land and ocean surfaces
3. Convection: the transfer of thermal energy by circulation or movement
of a liquid or gas
- most thermal energy in the atmosphere moves by convection
- convection currents in the atmosphere are caused by the
unequal heating of the atmosphere

Greenhouse Effect
- 50% of radiation entering the atmosphere is absorbed by Earths
- then it is re-radiated to the atmosphere as thermal energy
- gases (CO, CO2, water vapor) can stop energy from escaping
into space by absorbing and radiating it back to Earth
- the atmosphere stays warm
Global Warming
- increases in greenhouse gases= increase in average temperature
on Earth
Winds and their Types
- wind is moving air
- is created by differences in air pressure
- greater differences in air pressure = faster moving air
- the differences in air pressure are usually caused by the uneven
heating of the atmosphere
- at the equator, warm, less dense air rises, creating an area of
low pressure
- at the poles, colder, more dense air sinks, creating an area of
high pressure
- air moves from high pressure areas to low pressure areas (from
poles to the equator)

Coriolis Effect: The curving of moving objects, such as the wind that is
caused by Earths rotation.
- wind dont blow directly north or south
- the movement of winds is attracted by the rotation of the Earth
which causes winds to travel in a curved path
- winds in the Northern Hemisphere curve right
- winds in the Southern Hemisphere curve left

Types of Winds
1. Local Winds
- move short distances and can blow from any direction
- they are influenced by the geography of an area
- the local geography produces different temperatures, which
causes differences in local winds
- during the day, land heats faster than water
- air over land cools faster than water
- the air cools faster, creating an area of high pressure
Local winds include:
A. Sea Breeze: cool air over water moves towards land
B. Land Breeze: cool air over land moves towards water
C. Mountain Breeze: cool air sinks from the mountain peaks
(usually at night)
D. Valley Breeze: warm air from the valley rises. (usually during the
2. Global Winds
- part of a pattern or air circulation that moves across Earth over
long distances and in a specific direction
A. Trade Winds
- blow from 30 latitude to the equator
B. Doldrum and Horse Latitudes
1. trade winds of Northern and Southern hemispheres
meet in an area of low pressure near the equator called the
- very little wind here
2. at about 30 N and S latitude, sinking air creates an area of high
pressure called the Horse Latitudes
C. Westerlies
- wind belts found in both hemispheres between 30
and 60 latitude
- these winds flow toward the poles in the opposite
direction of the trade winds
D. Polar Easterlies
wind belts that extend from the poles to 60 latitude in both hemispheres

E. Jet Streams
- narrow belts of high-speed winds that blow in the
upper troposphere and lower stratosphere.
- these winds can often change speed and can reach
maximum speeds of 500 km per hour.
- they do not follow regular paths around Earth
- meteorologists track storms by knowing where the
jet stream is. Pilots save time and fuel by flying in the direction
of the jet stream.
Extra Info: Knowing the position of the jet stream is important to both
meteorologists and airline planets. Pilots can save time and fuel if they fly in
the direction of the jet stream (Tailwind).

- Air pollution is not a new concept
- Ancient civilizations had fire and open sewers
- Today, we have factories and automobiles
Primary Pollutants
- Primary pollutants are pollutants that are put directly into the air
by human or natural activity or sources.
- ex. car exhaust, volcanic ash, soot
Secondary Pollutants
- Secondary pollutants are pollutants that form from chemical
reactions that occur when primary pollutants come in contact with
other primary pollutants or with naturally occurring substances, like
water vapor.
- Many secondary pollutants are formed when a primary pollutant
reacts with sunlight.
- Ozone and smog are examples of secondary pollutants. Ozone
and smog are produced when sunlight reacts with automobile exhaust.

(Ozone is also a component of smog). Ozone and smog are produced

when sunlight reacts with automobile exhaust.
- Ironically, ozone is a dangerous near the ground, but if it is
located in the stratosphere, it is helpful and absorbs harmful rays from
the sun,therefore protecting organisms on Earth.

Human Caused Air Pollution

- 70% of CO is from vehicle exhaust
Industrial Pollution
- burn fossil fuels for energy
Power Plants:
- responsible for 96% of sulfur oxides released into the
- also release chemicals that can combine fo porm
poisonous chemicals
Indoor Air Pollution
- can be worse than outside air due to a lack of ventilation
- cause by household cleaners, cooking, paint, new carpet, smoke
Effects of Pollution on Human Health

- dizziness
- burning, itchy eyes
- chest pains
- allergies
- runny nose
- coughing and trouble breathing
- lung cancer and other diseases (most common effect)
- increased colds
- headaches
- sore throat
Clean Air Act
- gives the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) control to
regulate the amount of pollutants released from any source
- checks air quality
- sets quality standards
Controlling Air Pollution from Vehicles
- The EPA has required car manufacturers to meet a certain
standard for the exhaust that comes out of the tailpipe on cars.
Controlling Air Pollution from Industry
- The Clean Air Act requires many industries to use scrubbers
- Scrubbers are devices that attaches to smokestacks to remove
some of the more harmful pollutants before they are released into the
- Scrubbers prevent 22 million metric tons of ash from being
released into the air each year
Acid Precipitation
- Precipitation that contains acid from air pollution
- When fossil fuels are burned, they release oxides of sulfur and
nitrogen into the atmosphere. When these oxides combine with water
droplets in the atmosphere, they form sulfuric acid and nitric acid,
which fall as precipitation.
- Acid precipitation has many negative effects on the environment.
- Acid precipitation can kill living things, such as fish and trees, by
making their environment too acidic to live in.
The Ozone Hole
- In the 1970s, scientists determined that some chemicals
released into the atmosphere react with ozone in the ozone layer.
- Reaction results in a breakdown of ozone into oxygen, which
does not block the suns harmful UV (Ultraviolet Rays)
- Because of the loss of ozone, it creates an ozone hole, which
allows more UV rays to reach the Earths surface.