Atmosphere

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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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  • 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 three greenhouse gases?

    Q: What are three greenhouse gases?

    A: Three greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Greenhouse gases rise up into the atmosphere and envelop the Earth, causing the planet to warm up. The increase in average temperatures around the world is called global warming.
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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • How does the atmosphere support life on Earth?

    Q: How does the atmosphere support life on Earth?

    A: The atmosphere supports life on Earth by protecting it from dangerous electromagnetic radiation, by creating and controlling weather and climate and by providing the gases that plants and animals need to breathe. The atmosphere is composed of the troposphere, the tropopause, the stratosphere, the mesosphere and the ionosphere.
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  • Where do thunderstorms form?

    Q: Where do thunderstorms form?

    A: Thunderstorms originate in cumulonimbus clouds. Warm, humid air rises then cools, creating moisture to form the cloud. Thunderstorms produce heavy rain, strong winds and sometimes hail.
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  • What does a tornado do?

    Q: What does a tornado do?

    A: A tornado is a violently swirling column of air that forms at the base of a thunderstorm. When the tornado is visible, it's because the air gathered up water droplets, dust particles and debris. It is a destructive force of nature, with winds that can exceed 300 miles per hour, and it can damage areas as large as a mile wide and 50 miles long.
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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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  • 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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  • How does altitude affect climate?

    Q: How does altitude affect climate?

    A: Altitude affects climate in that the higher up you get, the more the temperature drops. The temperature goes down roughly 4 degrees Fahrenheit for every 1,000 feet you climb. Altitude is the subject's distance from the sea. This is why a lot of high-up places such as mountaintops often get snow for most of the year when other places do not, no matter how low the temperature drops.
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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 is the ozone layer located?

    Q: Where is the ozone layer located?

    A: The ozone layer is located in the stratosphere, a region of the atmosphere that is about 10 to 50 kilometers above the Earth. The stratosphere consists of approximately 90 percent ozone. Ozone has the chemical formula O3.
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  • How was Cyclone Tracy formed?

    Q: How was Cyclone Tracy formed?

    A: Cyclone Tracy developed as a tropical low-pressure system in the Arafura Sea between Australia and New Guinea on Dec. 20, 1974. The low was 300 miles away from Darwin in Australia's Northern Territory. Cyclone Tracy killed 71 people, caused 650 injuries and destroyed 80 percent of the buildings in Darwin. As of July 2014, this storm is the deadliest in Australian history since modern record-keeping began.
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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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  • What is the function of the atmosphere?

    Q: What is the function of the atmosphere?

    A: 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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  • What are the steps of the convection cycle in Earth's atmosphere?

    Q: What are the steps of the convection cycle in Earth's atmosphere?

    A: According to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, convection refers to the distribution of heat through vertical motions of air. Different surfaces absorb different amounts of energy and convection occurs where a particular surface heats up rapidly. Convection includes both large- and small-scale rising and sinking of air masses and smaller air parcels.
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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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  • 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 is the color spectrum?

    Q: What is the color spectrum?

    A: The color spectrum is the entire range of light wavelengths visible to the human eye. These range from approximately 400 nanometers per wavelength, at the violet end of the spectrum, to 700 nanometers per wavelength, at the red end of the spectrum.
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