Well, the atmosphere… Of course we all know it! But would you also be able to explain in words? Don’t worry, all you need is a cheat sheet!
The atmosphere is the gas layer surrounding the earth and that makes life comfortable here: It allows us to breath, balances temperatures and protects us from radiation. When we are talking about air, we actually mean the atmosphere. Main components are nitrogen, oxygen – and with a huge gap – Argon and Water vapor. Other trace gases include the shady greenhouse gases or more inert gases. The atmosphere consists of five layers that are varying in air content and pressure: Troposphere, Stratosphere, Mesosphere, Thermosphere and Exosphere.
What we see if we are looking into the sky is basically the troposphere, the lowest layer of the atmosphere. It is the ‘air’ we breathe and where our weather occurs. It contains the major amount of the whole atmosphere mass, since the gases are dense and so the pressure high. Next is the stratosphere, which includes the ozone layer. The ozone layer is important as it protects us from ultraviolet radiation coming from the sun. The coldest parts of our atmosphere are located in the mesosphere that can reach temperatures of –90°C on average. The mesosphere is also the layer where most meteors burn up upon atmospheric entrance.
In the fourth layer from Earth’s surface, the thermosphere, the air is already very thin. That means fewer air molecules are quite far apart and the pressure is very low. The thermosphere can get temperatures up to 1,500°C. However, due to the very low pressure, you wouldn’t feel hot there but also you wouldn’t be able to breath and your body would swell massively. No chance to live there. The exosphere is the upper layer of atmosphere, where the air is so thin that atoms and molecules escape into space.
You want more? Then check out this documentary; it’s easy to watch and really worth the 50 minutes!
Check out our cheat sheet for more quick explanations connected to environment and climate.