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ATMOSPHERE – blanket of atmosphere that surrounds Earth; pulled by Earth’s gravitational field


NITROGEN [78%] – dilutes oxygen and prevents rapid burning at Earth’s surface

OXYGEN [21%] – used by all living things; essential for respiration

ARGON [0.9%] – used in light bulbs

CARBON DIOXIDE [0.03%] – plants use it to make oxygen; acts as a blanket and prevents the escape of
heat into outer space

WATER VAPOR – essential for life processes; also, prevents heat loss from the Earth

TRACE GASES – gases found only in small amounts

Main Atmospheric Layers:

1. Troposphere
2. Stratosphere
3. Ozone Layer
4. Mesosphere
5. Thermosphere

STABILITY OR ATMOSPHERIC STABILITY – has something to do with air’s tendency to rise and create
storms or resist vertical movement

CLOUDS – aerosol comprising by visible mass of droplets or crystals of water

Why are we interested to clouds?

 Vessels where precipitation occurs

 Interacts with short and long wavelengths of radiation

Cloud Classifications:

 Stratus/Stratiform [< 2000m or 6500 ft] – thick, large, heavy-looking grey clouds that dominate
the sky; precipitation does not occur in this cloud
 Nimbostratus [< 2000m] – darker tone of grey than stratus clouds; precipitation usually occurs in
these clouds; base is difficult to identify as it stretches up into the sky
 Stratocumulus [< 2000m] – little rows of cotton balls; precipitation is rare from this cloud; if
cooled down in winter, may introduce showers
 Altocumulus [2000m – 7000m] – bumpy, highly moist; high moisture content, does not tend to
precipitate, shows in humid mornings when thunderstorms are expected to occur at afternoon
 Altostratus [2000m – 7000m] – larger than cumulus; stretches in miles similar to stratus; if
precipitates, base usually lowers, classifying it to nimbostratus
 Cirrus [6000m+] – composed mainly of ice crystals due to its height; thin, wispy, responsible for
Midwestern sunsets
 Cirrocumulus [6000m+] – thin, looking, curls of hair
 Cirrostratus [ 6000m+] – thin, hazy-looking clouds; the thinness veils the sun, creating a halo
 Cumulus [2000m – 7000m] – lovely, puffy clouds that are good for finding shapes in; fair
weather cumulus is called cumulus humilis or cumulis fractus; larger are cumulus congestus
 Cumulonimbus [600m – 18000m] – extremely large clouds coming from cumulus congestus

SOLAR RADIATION – direct source of life and energy on Earth; electromagnetic radiation coming from
the sun

Types of Solar Radiation:

 DIRECT RADIATION – also called BEAM RADIATION; solar radiation directly travelling along a
straight line from the sun to Earth’s surface
 DIFFUSE RADIATION – sunlight scattered by particles but still made down to Earth
 REFLECTED RADIATION – sunlight reflected off of non-atmospheric things such as the ground

Radiation Distribution:

 50% - Absorbed by the land and the seas

 20% - Absorbed by atmosphere and clouds
 20% - Reflected off of clouds to space
 5% - Reflected off of land and seas to space
 5% - backscattered to space by the atmosphere

SCATTERING – causes rays of sunlight to be redirected to a new direction after hitting a particle in the

Effects of Solar Radiation:

 HEALTH – radiation used to sterilize medical equipment, vitamin D, etc…

 CLIMATE – natural greenhouse effect
 ECOSYSTEM – facilitates photosynthesis

EARTH’S ENERGY BALANCE – proportioning of the incoming energy from the sun that is used and re-
radiated back to space

THERMAL INERTIA – rate of slowness at which temperature of an object approaches that of its

THERMAL CIRCULATION – the movement of air and means of thermal energy distribution on Earth

PRESSURE-GRADIENT FORCE – the force produced when there is change/difference in pressure

SIDE REAL DAY – time elapsed for one rotation with respect to the stars; equivalent to 23 hours, 56
minutes, 4.09 seconds on normal clock

Speed of Earth’s Rotation: 1674.4 kph

Angle of Axial Tilt: 23.5 degrees

BACK RADIATION – re-radiation of heat or radiation from sun to Earth back to space

Rate of Radiation Balance = 210 W/m^2

Heating Rate of Earth:

 At EQUATOR: 270 W/m^2

 At POLES: 90 W/m^2

HALLEY CIRCULATION - warm air travels to cooler regions while cool air travels to equator (warmer
regions) similar to thermal convection

CORIOLIS EFFECT – increase in velocity of a ring of air to maintain angular momentum as it approach
either pole

Three Patterns of Atmospheric Circulation:


PRECIPITATION – product of condensation of atmospheric water vapour that falls under gravity

RAIN – develops when growing cloud droplets become too heavy and falls as a result; can also begin as
ice crystals and collect to form snowflakes; the snowflakes fall and melt as it passes through warm air

SNOW – formed when ice crystals form from water vapour directly; this is called SUBLIMATION

HAIL – formed when updrafts carry droplets to the extremely cold areas/regions of the atmosphere

SLEET – frozen raindrops

FREEZING RAIN – falling rain that cools below 0 degree Celsius

VIRGA – precipitation that evaporates or sublimes before hitting the ground

RAIN GAUGE – used to measure liquid precipitation

Types of Rain Gauge:

 Standard Rain Gauge

 Pluviometer of Intensities
 Weighing Precipitation Gauge
 Tipping Bucket Rain Gauge
 Optical Rain Gauge
 Acoustic Rain Gauge

SNOW GAUGE – used to measure solid precipitation

Types of Snow Gauge:

 Automated Snow Gauge

 Snow Pillow

EVAPORATION – process by which water is changed from liquid state to gaseous state

Factors Affecting Evaporation: