You are on page 1of 6


The Atmosphere and Weather Willingham

Why can’t we control the weather?

I. The Past Atmosphere

A. Scientists _ _theorize____ that 4 billion years ago the Earth’s atmosphere
was quite different than it is today. It was a __violate
atmoshpere____containing a small amount of water and two deadly
gasses:__methane__ and___ammonia___.
1. Methane is a poisonous compound made of _____ carbon and hydrogen___
2. Ammonia is also a poisonous compound made of
B. This deadly __atmosphere___began to __change___around 3.8 billion years
ago when
___sunlight______triggered _____chemical reactions______among the methane,
ammonia and water vapor.
1. __hydrogen________, a lightweight gas, __escaped______into space.
2. _____nitrogen______was left in great_______abundance_____, as well as
carbon dioxide and water vapor.
3. ________volcanic activity________also released carbon dioxide, water vapor,
nitrogen and sulfur compounds into the atmosphere.
4. The _____water vapor_________from volcanic activity formed clouds that
continually rained on the early Earth to form the oceans.
C. As organisms evolved, _______blue-green bacteria_________used the energy
from the sun, carbon dioxide, and water to produce its own food
through______photsynthesis_. As a ___byproduct___of this process,__oxygen____
was released into the atmosphere.
D. As __Oxygen___began to ___accumulate____the atoms combined to form the
__ozone__ layer.
E. With protection from ____ultraviolet radiation many ______new organisms
and the amounts of carbon dioxide and oxygen began to level off.

II. The Present Atmosphere

1. Our present atmosphere contains gases including ______nitrogen, oygen,

carbon dioxide, water vapor, argon_______.
2. ______nitrogen_______ gas makes up _78__%
a. All ________living things_____need nitrogen to make __proteins______for
growth and repair.
b. ___bacteria______ play an important role in ______converting________ the
nitrogen gas into a usable form for plants and animals.
c. Nitrogen is ____recycled_______back into the atmosphere when plants
and animals ___decay____.
2. _____oxygen_____ makes up __21_%
a. Used directly by most living things for
____respiration_________(breaking down food to release
b. Necessary for _________combustion____________________of fuels
3. The remaining 1% is a combination of ________carbon dioxide, water
vapor, argon, trace gases________.
a. Carbon dioxide is important for ___plants______ to make their
b. Carbon dioxide is returned to the atmosphere through
__decay______ and
_____respiration___________(we exhale carbon dioxide)
c. ____water vapor____________plays an important role in our weather,
and ________absorbing heat________________in our atmosphere.
A. Without our gaseous atmosphere Earth would be a cold ball of ice with a
temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
B. The present _____atmosphere___________ is also needed to absorb, or deflect,
_cosmic rays charged particles and UV radiation_____
III. Layers of the Atmosphere
A. Our atmosphere extends upward for about 120 miles and is divided into _4___
______unequal parts__________. These layers are divided according to major
______temperature____ changes.
1. As you travel up into the atmosphere temperatures change and ____air
2. Because air pressure decreases with increasing altitude, there is __less
available oxygen___
as you go up into the atmosphere.
3. The tolerable limit for humans is between_______5000-18000 ft.__ ___.
Above 25,000 feet- known to climbers as the Death Zone- tremendous
stress is placed on the body.
B. The four layers of the atmosphere, beginning with the layer closest to Earth’s
surface are the troposphere__, __strato._ _,_____meso._
1. ______troposphere______ (or “turning” sphere)- the layer that we are
able to live in because of the ______warmth_______ and
_____oxygen________ it provides
a. 10_miles thick at the equator and ______6-7 miles___ miles in
temperate latitudes (such as North Carolina)
b. Makes up _80__% of the atmosphere’s mass, virtually
all____water____, and all ____weather_________are contained in
this layer
c. Temperatures at the edge of the troposphere are about
_________-55 degrees_______.
2. ____stratosphere____________- extends up to 50 kilometers above
Earth’s surface
a. The air in the lower stratosphere consists of ___strong
eastward winds_____called the ______jet streams___.
b. Also contains the ___ozone layer______which absorbs
___ultraviolet rays___from the sun.
c. The ozone layer is also responsible for the
____in temp___________to 18 degrees Celsius in the upper
3. ____meso.__ ____- extends up to 80 kilometers above Earth’s surface
a. Temperatures drop to _______-100 deg._________ at the upper
regions (the ____coldest________region of the atmosphere)
b.__protects______ the Earth from ___meteorides_______entering
the atmosphere- the heat produced by friction and rubbing
between the meteoroid and atmosphere cause them to burn.
Some are large enough to pass through the atmosphere and are
called _____meteorites___.
4. ___thermosphere___ (“warm-layer”) - no well-defined upper limits
a. Temperatures in this layer may reach as high as
__2000 deg._ __! A great deal of nitrogen and oxygen in this layer
absorb ultraviolet radiation from space and convert it into heat.
b. The air in the thermosphere is very thin, meaning that there
are ___very few air molecules______. So, even though each
molecule is very warm (moving fast), they are far apart and
rarely come in contact with one another. This means that space
shuttles must enter the thermosphere at angles no greater than
6 degrees. If they were to enter the _____atmosphere________too
quickly and at the ___wrong angle___there would be enough
molecules to __________create drag, and become
b. The lower part of the thermosphere is the ___ionsphere_______. Here,
gas particles become electrically charged by absorbing___UV radiation
and X rays given___
___given off by the sun. These ions (charged particles) become
important for_______radio communication__________.
d. The upper thermosphere is called the _____exosphere______.
This is where artificial __sattelites orbit the

IV. Weather

A. Defined as the _____________daily condition of earth’s atmosphere_____________.

B. Four factors interact to cause our weather:
1. Heat Energy- the sun’s _____radio energy_______________warms the Earth
a. This energy warms the Earth by __absorbing ____storing, and
recycling____ radiant energy.
b. The energy absorbed is spread throughout the atmosphere in three
i. ____conduction_____- direct ____transfer of heat________from
one substance to another (the ground is warmed and the air in
contact is also warmed)
ii. Convection- unequal heating of the atmosphere causes
__warm air____,
_____to rise_____ and _____to cool and sink__________creating
convection currents (up and down motions of air)
iii. Radiation- _____transfer by heat __________by _____wave
motion__________(Ex. you can feel the heat coming from a hot
2. Air pressure or atmospheric pressure- is a ______measure______of
the __force___
pressing down on Earth’s surface (air does have___weight_____!)
a. Depends on the ___density________(cold air is more dense and
therefore creates a _____higher____air pressure, whereas warm air is
less dense and creates ______lower____air pressure)
b. Affected by three factors:
i. __temperature_________- __cold____ temperatures
=___high_____ pressure
____warm___temperatures = ___low___pressure
ii. Water vapor- ______moist air is less dense___than dry
air___(water molecules have less mass than nitrogen or oxygen
iii. ____elevation_________- as you go up in altitude air pressure
c. Air pressure is ______measured____ with an instrument called
d. ______air pressure differences create wind greater at lower
e. Pressure is ________greater at lower________ because the air’s
molecules (being pulled down by ____gravity___) are squeezed under
the weight of the air above. This change in pressure is evident when
your ears “pop” as you go up in altitude.
f. Air pressure can help ___predict the weather________. For example,
high pressure usually indicates fair weather while low pressure can
lead to cloudy, rainy weather.
3. Wind- created by _______difference in air pressure_____(winds blow from
high pressure to low pressure areas) due to unequal heating of the
atmosphere. There are two types of winds: _local and global_____
a. Local winds are created due to land heating up faster than water.
i. Land breeze- a flow of cooler air moving from____land to
sea___________, usually occurring at ___night____.
ii. Sea Breeze- the flow of cooler air moving from____sea to
land______, usually occurring during the __day______
iii. Monsoon- a major land and sea breeze bringing a __rainy
and __warm temps____(common in Asia)
b. Global Winds- large _____systems_of wind______ that are influenced
by the unequal heating of Earth’s surface. (Ex. at the equator warm air
rises and moves towards the poles, and cooler air at the poles sinks
and moves toward the equator)
i. Coriolis effect- the ____apparent________shift in the path of any
fluid or object moving above Earth’s surface due to the
___rotation______ of the __earth____. It explains why winds in the
Northern hemisphere curve to the right, and winds in the
Southern hemisphere curve to the left.
ii. Doldrums- areas at the ___equator________(0 degrees latitude)
where winds are quite__calm____, this area can cause problems
for sailing ships
iii. Trade Winds-(the winds that carried Columbus) located ____
______30® N and S _of the equator____ where warm air rising
from the equator begins to sink. In the northern hemisphere
these winds are called __northeast trades_____, in the southern
hemisphere they are called ____southeast________.
iv. Prevailing Westerlies- winds blowing from _____W to
E______located in a belt from 40 to 60 degrees latitude in both
v. Polar Easterlies- _______cold, weak, winds__________around the
poles flowing from the east
vi. Jet stream- wandering, narrow bands of _______high speed
winds__in the upper atmosphere that flow from ___West to
4. Moisture in the Air
a. Moisture enters the air through_____evaporation_____, a process by
which water molecules escape into the air.
b. Humidity- water vapor, or moisture, in the air
i. _____relative humidity__________is the amount of moisture in
the air relative to the amount that it could hold at a particular
____temperature________ (warm air holds more moisture than
cold air)
ii Measured using a ______psychrometer_______, an instrument
containing two thermometers, a ____wet bulb______(thermometer
covered with a wet cloth) and a____dry bulb______. Evaporation of
water on the wet-bulb requires heat which cools the temperature
of the wet-bulb. The relative humidity can then be measured by
finding the ___difference______
between the dry-bulb and wet-bulb temperatures. Then, using
those numbers, a chart gives you the relative humidity
____expressed as_a percentage__.
c. Clouds- form from ______rising moisture_______________in the air.
Process of cloud
i.___cloud droplets______, holding more moisture than cold air,
begins to _rise___ in the atmosphere
ii. As the air moves up the temperatures begin to drop and
_air becomes saturated with moisture_____.
iii. At this temperature, __water vapor begins to condense ___, or
change into liquid (___dew point_____)
iv. The moisture begins to _____collect on small dust particles __
or other solids in the air and a cloud forms
v. There are three main types of clouds: _cumulus__|(cotton balls
in the sky), __stratus____ (smooth and gray), and __cirrus___
d. Precipitation- water that falls from the atmosphere to Earth
i. ___cloud droplets____ begin to increase in size, become too
large to remain suspended, and fall to Earth as rain
ii. If the falling drops pass through ___cloud air___ and freeze
they become ____sleet___
iii. Water vapor that changes directly into a solid forms
iv. Hail forms in cumulonimbus (thunderstorm) clouds
____droplets hit ice pellets___ in a cloud and freeze. If the wind is
strong enough, it moves the hailstones around in the cloud
allowing them to form ____layers of new ice_____ before falling to
the ground.
C. The interactions of _______heat energy, air pressure, wind___ are constantly
interacting and changing to _____cause weather and moisture________.