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Atmosphere
The Earth is surrounded by a blanket of air, which we call the atmosphere. It reaches
over 560 kilometers (348 miles) from the surface of the Earth, so we are only able to see
what occurs fairly close to the ground. Early attempts at studying the nature of the atmosphere
used clues from the weather, the beautiful multi-colored sunsets and sunrises, and the
twinkling of stars. With the use of sensitive instruments from space, we are able to get a better
view of the functioning of our atmosphere.
Life on Earth is supported by the atmosphere, solar energy, and our planet's magnetic fields.
The atmosphere absorbs the energy from the Sun, recycles water and other chemicals, and
works with the electrical and magnetic forces to provide a moderate climate. The atmosphere
also protects us from high-energy radiation and the frigid vacuum of space.

The envelope of gas surrounding the Earth changes from the ground up. Four distinct layers
have been identified using thermal characteristics (temperature changes), chemical
composition, movement, and density.

About 5.5-6 billion years ago (BYA), the solar nebula begins to collapse
About 4.6 BYA, Sun begins fusion
About 4.5-4.56 BYA, Proto-Earth formed from planetesimals.
4.44+ BYA, Earth-Moon formed by giant impact. Earth melts, magma ocean.
4.2 BYA, Earth was completely differentiated.
4 BYA, earliest oceans formed, thick atmosphere exists
3.8 BYA, life develops
2.5-3 BYA, photosynthesis leads to O2 in ocean
2 BYA, O2 hits atmosphere

Early Earth Timeline
The First Atmosphere
The early atmosphere would have been similar to the Sun--
mainly hydrogen and helium, but this atmosphere was lost
quickly for two reasons:
(1) The gravity of the modest size earth was not strong
enough to prevent such light gases from escaping to space.
Particularly since the early earth was hot!
(2) It appears that around 30 million years after the earths
formation, it was struck by a large objectthe size of Mars.
The result: the origin of the moon and loss of earths early H,
He atmosphere.
Earths Second Atmosphere
A new atmosphere was established by the outgasing of
volcanoesthe mixture of gases was probably similar to those of
todays volcanoes:
H
2
0 vapor (roughly 80%)
CO
2
(roughly 10%)
N
2
(few percent)
Small amounts of CO, HCL, HS (Hydrogen Sulfide), SO
2
, CH
4

(Methane), Ammonia (NH
3
), and other trace gases.
Earths Second
Atmosphere
Virtually no oxygen in that second atmosphere.
Thus, no ozone layer, so ultraviolet radiation flooded the earths
surface.
With a huge influx of water vapor and the cooling of the planet,
clouds and earths oceans formed.
At that time the sun was about 30% weaker than todaywhy
didnt the earth freeze over?
The apparent reason: so much CO
2
so there was a very strong
greenhouse effect.
The Third Atmosphere
While O
2
was increasing, CO
2
decreased due to several reasons:

(1) In photosynthesis CO
2
is used to produce organic matter,
some of which is lost to the system (e.g., drops to the bottom of
the ocean or is buried)

(2) chemical weathering, which removes CO
2

The Atmosphere
Early Modern
No oxygen
No ozone layer
Lots of UV
No land
Lots of CO2 and ammonia
Intense lightning storms

Lots O2
Ozone layer
Not much UV
More land
Less CO2 and ammonia
Less lightning storms
Chemical Composition
Atmosphere is a mixture of gases and particulate-phase substances
Most abundant
Nitrogen (78 %)
Oxygen (21 %)
Trace gases and aerosols make up approximately 1 % (Table 1.1)
Some are present in constant concentrations
N
2
, O
2
and noble gases
Chemical Composition
Others vary temporally and spatially:
Water vapor (H
2
O)
Carbon dioxide (CO
2
), Carbon monoxide (CO)
Ozone (O
3
)
Methane (CH
4
)
Nitrogen oxides (nitrous oxide (N
2
O); nitric oxide (NO); nitrogen
dioxide (NO
2
))
Ammonia (NH
3
)
Formaldehyde (HCHO)
Sulfur dioxide (SO
2
)
Reduced sulfur compounds (H
2
S, COS, CS
2
, (CH
3
)2
S
)
Odd hydrogen species (OH,HO
2
,H
2
O
2
)
Particulate-phase species
Nitrate (NO
3
-
), Ammonium (NH
4
+
), Sulfate (SO
4
2+
)
The Rise of Oxygen and the Third Atmosphere
In the first two billion years of the planets evolution, the atmosphere
acquired a small amount of oxygen, probably by the splitting of water
(H20) molecules by solar radiation.
The evidence of this oxygen is suggested by minor rust in some early
rocks.
The oxygen also led to the establishment of an ozone layer that
reduced UV radiation at the surface.
With the rise of photosynthetic bacteria (cyanobacteria) and early
plants, oxygen levels began to rise rapidly as did indications of rust in
rocks
Between 2.5 billion years ago to about 500 bya, 0
2
rose to near
current levels.
Nitrogen (N
2
)
Most abundant atmospheric gas
Limited direct role in atmospheric and life processes
Precursor for the formation of nitrate used by plants to synthesize
proteins
Results from atmospheric and symbiotic biological processes
Nitrous oxide (N
2
O)
Nitric oxide (NO)
Nitrogen dioxide (NO
2
)
Dintrogen pentoxide (N
2
O
5
)
Nitrate radical (NO
3
)
Oxygen (O
2
)
Essential for metabolism; Required
for the evolution of life
Precursor for the production of
stratospheric O
3
; formation of the O
3

layer made life possible
O
3
:
background surface levels (~ 20
ppbv); peak levels (8-10 ppmv)
occur in middle stratosphere
Absorbs UV and thermal energy
carbon
dioxide
nitrogen
oxygen
100%
50%
0%
5,000 3,000 0
C
o
m
p
o
s
i
t
i
o
n

p
e
r
c
e
n
t
a
g
e

Time (millions of years)
now
Atmosphere
The Troposphere
The density of the atmosphere decreases rapidly with increasing
height.
The troposphere has the following characteristics:
it is about 12 km (7 mi) thick,
the temperature decreases rapidly with altitude,
the mean temperatures at the bottom and top are 16C & -
60C,
it is heated from below by conduction and from condensation of
water vapor,
it is the region where you find precipitation, evaporation, rapid
convection, the major wind systems, and clouds, and
it is the densest layer of the atmosphere.
The Tropopause/Stratosphere
Above the troposphere is a region of relatively constant temperature, -60C,
about 10 km (6 mi) thick called the tropopause.
This is where high velocity winds (jet streams) occur.
The stratosphere has the following characteristics:
it is about 28 km (17 mi) thick,
the temperature increases with altitude from about -60C to 0C,
this is where ozone, an unstable form of oxygen, appears,
it is heated as the ozone absorbs incoming ultraviolet radiation.
Mesosphere/Mesopause/Thermosphere
Mesosphere temperatures fall with increasisng altitude until they
reach the Mesopause at 80Km and -95
o
C
Above the mesopause is the Thermosphere where temperatures are
isothermal for 10Km then rise rapidly with increasing altitude
The thermosphere is very sensitive to incoming solar radiation
Thermosphere
80 km and above
Temperature increases with altitude as atoms accelerated by solar
radiation
-95 C at base to 100 C at 120 km
Heat content negligible
Traces of atmosphere to 1000 km
Formerly called Ionosphere

Air Pressure
Density of Molecules decreases with height.

Although the atmosphere goes up to 184 miles, half of
the atmosphere is in the first 18,000 feet or 3.4 miles.

Less molecules (same composition) higher up makes it
is harder to breath than at sea level.

Air Pressure is converted to Sea Level Pressure to
observe surface low and high pressures. (otherwise the
Rocky Mts. would be always be low pressure and the
oceans would be areas of high pressure).

Pressure also dependent upon Temperature
(We will perform an experiment on this)
Earth-Atmosphere Energy Balance
The Ozone Layer
Ozone is made of oxygen.
Although you cannot see the ozone layer, your
life depends on it.
Within the stratosphere, about 19 km to 48 km above your head, lies
an atmospheric layer called the ozone layer
An ozone molecule is made up of three oxygen atoms bound together.
The ozone layer contains a high concentration of ozone and shields you from
the Sun's harmful energy.
The Ozone Layer
Ozone absorbs most of the ultraviolet radiation that enters the atmosphere.
Ultraviolet radiation is one of the many types of energy that come to Earth from the
Sun.
Sustaining Ozone
CFCs were used for years as aerosol propellants and refrigerants.
Mostly = CFCl
3
, CF
2
Cl
2
.

They are not water soluble (so they do not get washed out of the
atmosphere by rain) and are quite unreactive (so they are not
degraded naturally).
Ozone Depletion Chlorofluorocarbons
The CCl bond is easily broken, though, when the molecule
absorbs radiation with a wavelength between 190 and 225 nm.
The chlorine atoms formed react with ozone:
Cl + O
3
ClO + O
2

In spite of the fact that the use of CFCs in now banned in over
100 countries, ozone depletion will continue for some time
because of the tremendously unreactive nature of CFCs.
Depletion of Ozone
Ozone
Ozone absorbs much of the radiation between 240 and
310 nm.
It forms from reaction of molecular oxygen with the
oxygen atoms produced in the upper atmosphere by
photodissociation (< 242 nm).
O + O
2
O
3

Ozone Depletion
In 1974 Rowland and Molina (Nobel Prize, 1995) discovered that chlorine from
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) may be depleting the supply of ozone in the upper
atmosphere.
Chlorofluorocarbons and the ozone layer
The ozone layer absorbs the Suns high-energy ultraviolet
(UV) radiation and protects the Earth.
Chlorofluorocarbons and the ozone layer
In the stratosphere, the CFCs break down and release
chlorine.
The chlorine reacts with ozone molecules, which
normally block incoming ultraviolet radiation.
Thinning of the Ozone Layer
Evidence from satellites
of thinning of the Ozone
layer led to the Montreal
Protocol for reducing
CFCs
Ozone Hole
Darkest blue areas represent
regions of maximum ozone
depletion
Carbon dioxide levels have risen by 30% in the last 200 years.
The IPCC projects that, if unchecked,
atmospheric carbon dioxide
concentrations will range from 650 to
970 ppm by 2100.
Increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide
Winds Actually Dont move directly towards or away from the pole or equator: In the northern
hemisphere they veer to the right (to left in southern hemisphere) the Coriolis Force:

An apparent force due to rotating Earth causing different inertial velocities at different
latitudes.