Atmosphere

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The atmosphere works as a place to contain the oxygen that is necessary for life, works as a blanket to shield the earth from radiation and helps to create the different types of weather that are felt on the Earth. The atmosphere also contains small amounts of carbon dioxide that is necessary for plants to be able to live.

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  • Why is air important?

    Q: Why is air important?

    A: Air is important for the planet because it contains the gases necessary to support plants, animals and other organisms. Additionally, the presence of an atmosphere keeps the Earth at a habitable temperature.
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  • Why is there wind?

    Q: Why is there wind?

    A: According to the National Center for Atmospheric Research, wind exists because of the movement of air and the differences in air pressure within the atmosphere. When high-pressure air moves toward low-pressure air, the difference in pressure leads to a faster air current or stronger wind.
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  • What is an urban heat island?

    Q: What is an urban heat island?

    A: An urban heat island is an elevation in the temperature of outdoor urban air during the daytime. This is a result of man-made structures, such as buildings and roads, that have replaced outdoor vegetation, such as trees. As a result, more heat is absorbed, and the temperature is warmer.
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  • Who discovered the greenhouse effect?

    Q: Who discovered the greenhouse effect?

    A: In 1824, Joseph Fourier was the first to argue for the existence of the greenhouse effect. Svante Arrhenius fully quantified the greenhouse effect in 1896.
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  • What is the hottest layer of the atmosphere?

    Q: What is the hottest layer of the atmosphere?

    A: The thermosphere is the hottest layer of the atmosphere. It extends from 80 kilometers above the surface of the Earth up to 600 kilometers and can heat up to 1,500 degrees Celsius because it’s very sensitive to solar activity. The air is thin and extremely hot, and there are sparse air molecules in this layer.
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  • Why is the ozone layer important?

    Q: Why is the ozone layer important?

    A: The ozone layer is important because it filters harmful ultraviolet radiation as it travels from the sun to the surface of the Earth. These ultraviolet rays can harm both plant and animal life. After observation of a depletion of the ozone layer from the addition of chlorofluorocarbons and other man-made chemicals, the Montreal Protocol was enacted on Jan. 1, 1989 as an attempt to eradicate these chemicals from the atmosphere.
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  • What is a jet stream?

    Q: What is a jet stream?

    A: Jet streams are areas of high winds that flow in a westerly direction on Earth. Occurring about 7 miles above the surface of the Earth, the jet streams do not take a consistent path because the flow of wind moves about slightly, altering the weather patterns as it does so. At times, slivers of wind may break away from the main flow and only rejoin the jet stream later.
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  • How does the ozone layer work?

    Q: How does the ozone layer work?

    A: According to How Stuff Works, the ozone layer works by ultraviolet light breaking apart oxygen molecules and then reforming them as ozone. Ozone converts the dangerous ultraviolet rays into harmless heat. With an adequate supply of ozone and oxygen, the ozone layer will absorb approximately 98 percent of incoming ultraviolet rays.
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  • Where do clouds come from?

    Q: Where do clouds come from?

    A: Clouds come from small liquid droplets or frozen crystals of water and float in the atmosphere above the surface of Earth, or any other planet known to have a gas in the atmosphere.
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  • Which types of gases did the early atmosphere primarily contain?

    Q: Which types of gases did the early atmosphere primarily contain?

    A: Earth's atmosphere has gone through multiple distinct phases throughout its life, from a hydrogen-rich early period to the modern oxidizing chemistry. The first atmosphere Earth had was chemically very similar to the composition of the primordial dust and gas cloud from which the solar system formed. This chemistry can be seen in some asteroids, and it is a combination of hydrogen, helium and complex organic molecules.
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  • What is the climate of the Atacama desert?

    Q: What is the climate of the Atacama desert?

    A: The Atacama Desert in Chile is the driest desert in the world. Average rainfall totals 0.59 inches per year, but some weather stations placed there have never received rain, and historical evidence suggests the desert may have experienced no rainfall at all from 1570 to 1971. Daytime temperatures average between 32 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and nighttime temperatures can drop to 10 to 15 degrees below zero.
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  • What happens when hot air meets cold air?

    Q: What happens when hot air meets cold air?

    A: When hot and cold air meet, the warm air rises above the cool air, creating a low pressure zone. Warm air tends to cool as it reaches higher elevations, with the liquid in it condensing and forming clouds and rain. Cool air rushes in to fill the low pressure zone, pushing more warm air up and creating a cycle that can result in high winds and storms.
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  • What can we do to prevent ozone depletion?

    Q: What can we do to prevent ozone depletion?

    A: According to Green Diary, ozone depletion can be prevented by limiting the use of private vehicles, making use of eco-friendly cleaning products for the home, avoiding the use of pesticides and banning the use of nitrous oxide. The main cause of ozone depletion is the use of man-made halocarbon refrigerants including freons, halons and CFCs.
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  • Why is the coolest time of day just before sunrise?

    Q: Why is the coolest time of day just before sunrise?

    A: According to USA Today, the coldest time of the day comes just before sunrise because the earth has had all night to expel the heat from the previous day into the atmosphere. As soon as the sun begins to rise, the earth will immediately begin to heat up once again.
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  • Why does the sky change colors?

    Q: Why does the sky change colors?

    A: There are many proximate causes for changes to the color of the sky, but they all involve the way light is diffracted through the air. Light from the sun can be bent as it moves through the Earth's atmosphere, and the wavelengths of light that are able to pass most easily through the air give the sky its color.
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  • How do hurricanes occur?

    Q: How do hurricanes occur?

    A: A hurricane is a severe kind of tropical cyclone, which is a low-pressure system with defined wind circulation that occurs over the tropics. During a hurricane, sustained winds reach speeds of 74 mph or higher, while air pressure in the center of the cyclone drops, and the Coriolis force causes these winds to spiral counterclockwise.
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  • What are the three major wind belts?

    Q: What are the three major wind belts?

    A: The three major wind belts, also known as circulations, are the Hadley cell, the Ferrel cell and the Polar cell. The circulation of these winds is caused by the rotation of the earth and the energy of the sun.
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  • Where do you see the Northern Lights?

    Q: Where do you see the Northern Lights?

    A: Under normal circumstances, the northern lights occur in a narrow band around 10 to 20 degrees of latitude from the North Pole. In North America, this restricts their range to parts of Alaska, northwest Canada and Greenland. In Europe, Norway and parts of Siberia also experience the northern lights on occasion. However, changes in the Earth's geomagnetic field and solar activity can alter the range and activity of the aurorae.
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  • What are some examples of atmospheres?

    Q: What are some examples of atmospheres?

    A: Earth's atmosphere is primarily composed of nitrogen and oxygen with water vapor comprising 0.25 percent of the atmosphere by mass. It has five layers: troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere and exosphere.
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  • When is an air parcel considered unstable?

    Q: When is an air parcel considered unstable?

    A: An air parcel is unstable if its temperature is and remains higher than the temperature of its surrounding environment as it rises above the ground. When this occurs, the parcel continues to rise. This is known as moist convection.
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  • What are the stages of the water cycle?

    Q: What are the stages of the water cycle?

    A: The stages of the water cycle are evaporation, condensation, precipitation and collection. The water cycle is energized by the sun's energy and requires the attractive force of gravity.
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