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The Story of the Atmosphere

Introduction

The word atmosphere as defined by Merriam-Webster is the gaseous envelope

of a celestial body (such as a planet) and/or the whole mass of air surrounding the earth.

While etymonline stated that the word atmosphere that is generally used today was

from the Modern Latin word “atmosphaera” a combination of Greek words “atmos”

which means steam or vapor and “sphaira” or sphere. Martin (2015) mentioned in his

article that Willebrord Snellius, an astronomer and mathematical practitioner coined the

word atmosphere translating Stevin’s Dutch neologism. Earth is not the only planet that

has an atmosphere, in our solar system all the planets is enveloped by gaseous

elements, some maybe a bit similar to that of Earth like, Mars and Venus but most have

greater amounts of other gases like that of Jupiter and Venus. Hence, according to what

people currently the Earth’s atmosphere is the only inhabitable of all, although studies

are being conducted already with the red planet (Mars) to check if human life will

survive in it’s atmosphere.

The Earth’s atmosphere became a source of protection as well as survival for

living organisms that thrives in its surface. The atmosphere is composed of five (5)

different layers, each with specific purpose and different components, namely the

troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, and exosphere.


The Troposphere, this is the first and the lowest layer of the atmosphere it is

where we find most of our weather – such as cloud formation, rain, snow, etc. It is

bonded on the top by a layer of air called the tropopause, which separates the

troposphere from the stratosphere and on bottom by the surface of the Earth. The

troposphere is wider at the equator (10mi) than at the poles (5mi). It contains 75 percent

of atmosphere's mass- on an average day the weight of the molecules in the air is 14.7

lb. (sq. in.) and most of the atmosphere's water vapor. Water vapor concentration varies

from trace amounts in the Polar Regions to nearly 4 percent in the tropical areas. Most

prevalent gases are nitrogen (78 percent) and oxygen (21 percent), with the remaining

1- percent consisting of argon, (.9 percent) and traces of hydrogen ozone ( a form of

oxygen), and other constituents. Temperature and water vapor content in the

troposphere decrease rapidly with altitude which makes the vapor more concentrated

and warmer in the lower zones. Water vapor plays a major role in regulating air

temperature because it absorbs solar energy and thermal radiation from the planet's
surface and since this is where the water vapor and the varying temperature from one

location to another occurs in this part that is why all the weather disturbances happen in

here. Also, it is understood that air movements in the upper troposphere greatly

influence weather systems in the lower troposphere. The term troposphere was first

used in 1902 by Léon Philippe Teisserenc de Bort, a french meteorologist who was a

pioneer in the use of meteorological balloons. (Weather Online UK)

The Second layer is the Stratosphere; it extends from the top of the troposphere

to about 50 km (31 miles) above the ground. The infamous ozone layer is found within

the stratosphere. Ozone molecules in this layer absorb high-energy ultraviolet (UV) light

from the Sun, a sort of personal protection of Earth from the harms of the UV rays and

converting the UV energy into heat. Life as we know it wouldn’t be possible without this

layer of protection. Little moisture enters the layer, so clouds are very rare. Even though

the stratosphere has complex wind systems, violent storms don't occur there. Because

the air temperature in the stratosphere slowly increases with altitude, it does not cause

convection and has a stabilizing effect on atmospheric conditions in the region, the

trend of rising temperatures with altitude means that air in the stratosphere is stabilized

and it lacks the turbulence and updrafts of the troposphere beneath. This is why

commercial passenger jets fly in the lower parts of the stratosphere, partly because

there is less-turbulence that provides a smoother ride. The jet stream flows near the

border between the troposphere and the stratosphere.


Mesosphere is the third layer of the Earth’s atmosphere. It extends upward to a

height of about 85 km (53 miles) above our planet. The mesosphere lies between the

thermosphere and the stratosphere. “Meso” literally means middle, and this is the

highest layer of the atmosphere in which the gases are all mixed up rather than being

layered according to their mass. The mesosphere is 22 miles (35 kilometers) thick.

Meteor shower is one of the many night sky phenomenon that everyone looks forward

of seeing. It is a general fact that meteors burn up and streak across the sky. As the

meteoroids enter the earth’s atmosphere they make it through the exosphere and the

thermosphere because those parts doesn’t have much air but as they enter the

mesosphere they vaporize completely because there are enough gases that causes

friction which creates heat most of them never reach the planet's surface. If any part of

a meteoroid survives the fall through the atmosphere and lands on Earth, it is called a
meteorite. Temperatures once again grow colder as you rise up through the

mesosphere. The coldest temperatures in Earth's atmosphere is about -90° C (-130° F),

are found near the top of this layer. The air in the mesosphere is far too thin that is why

you wouldn’t be able to breathe up in the area; air pressure at the bottom of the layer is

well below 1% of the pressure at sea level, and continues dropping as you go higher.

The Thermosphere is the fourth layer of the atmosphere and is quite near space.

Air is very rare in this area. The thermosphere lies between the exosphere and the

mesosphere. “Thermo” means heat, and the temperature in this layer can reach up to

4,500 degrees Fahrenheit and this is because of high-energy X-rays and UV radiation

from the Sun are absorbed in this layer. This layer of Earth’s atmosphere is about 319

miles (513 kilometers) thick, much thicker than the inner layers of the atmosphere, but

not nearly as thick as the next sphere. Despite containing a massive amount of heat

(4,500° F) it is very cold here because there are not enough gas molecules to transfer

the heat to any life that attempt to go to this area, also sound waves are somehow

impossible in this area since there aren’t enough molecules to allow the sound to travel.

This layer houses the infamous International Space Station along with low Earth orbit

satellites as it they sojourn around the earth.

And last but not the least in the layers of the Earth’s atmosphere is the

Exosphere, the final frontier the very edge of our atmosphere. This layer separates the

rest of the atmosphere from outer space. It’s about 6,200 miles (10,000 kilometers) thick

almost as wide as Earth itself. The air in this layer is so thin that it feels more space like

than the atmosphere, although it is undoubtable since it’s the last layer. The exosphere

has gases like hydrogen and helium, but they are very spread out. There is a lot of
empty space in between. There is no air to breathe, and it’s very cold. (NASA Space

Place) The earth’s atmosphere is more or less in a state of hydrostatic equilibrium

which means, the force due to the pressure gradient in the atmosphere is peacefully

balanced by the earth’s gravitational force and because of this, we have atmospheric

layers that arranges the elements according to their density - heavier elements at the

bottom and lighter elements at the top, with a balanced pressure. If gravity is absent,

the pressure gradient force will simply leak out our entire atmosphere into the outer

space thus earth has the right amount of gravity and mostly a non-leaky, good

atmosphere that sustains life. However, still a few gases escapes and leaks into the

outer space, which is nearly a vacuum. There are also several phenomenon that causes

some gas to leak such as the Turbopause, Thermosphere and molecular kinetic energy,

and Solar winds and the magnetosphere. (Karthikeyan, 2015) Another explanation as to

why gases leak out from the atmosphere is from the main contents of this layer you can

find oxygen and hydrogen atoms, but there are very few of them that they rarely collide -

they follow "ballistic" trajectories under the influence of gravity, and some of them

escape right out into space. In addition, according to Williams (2010) the Aurora

Borealis and Aurora Australis, (Northern and Southern Lights respectively) are created

in this exosphere (between exosphere and thermosphere) basically the solar wind is

periodically launched by the sun which contains clouds of plasma, charged particles that

include electrons and positive ions, upon reaching earth, they interact with the its

magnetic field, which excites oxygen and nitrogen in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. In

this process, ionized nitrogen atoms regain an electron, and oxygen and nitrogen atoms

return from an excited state to ground state.


The now very active energy is lost in the emission of a photon of light, or can be

also caused by collision with another atom or molecule. The colors of the light vary

depending on the gas that they’ve interact with, example is oxygen atom as they

interact with solar radiation appear green or brownish-red, while the interaction of

nitrogen atoms cause light to be emitted that appears blue or red.

The Gas Component of the Atmosphere


The atmosphere of Earth is the layer of gases, commonly known as airthat

surrounds the planet Earth and is retained by Earth's gravity. The atmosphere of Earth

protects life on Earth by creating pressure allowing for liquid water to exist on the

Earth's surface, absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat

retention (greenhouse effect), and reducing temperature extremes between day and

night (the diurnal temperature variation).

By volume, dry air contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen,0.93% argon,

0.04% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases. Air also contains a variable

amount of water vapor, on average around 1% at sea level, and 0.4% over the entire

atmosphere. Air content and atmospheric pressure vary at different layers, and air

suitable for use in photosynthesis by terrestrial plantsand breathing of terrestrial

animals is found only in Earth's troposphere and in artificial atmospheres.


The Ozone Layer

Ozone is a natural gas composed of three atoms of oxygen. It chemical symbol

is O3. It is blue in color and has a strong odor. Normal oxygen (O2), which we breathe,

has two oxygen atoms and is colorless and odorless. Environmental scientists have

classified O3 into two: Good Ozone and Bad Ozone.

GOOD OZONE

Good ozone (also called Stratospheric Ozone) occurs naturally in the upper

Stratosphere. The stratosphere is the layer of space 6 to 30 miles above the earth's

surface. The air is full of gases reacting with each other, even though our eyes do not

see. When UV light strikes (Oxygen) O2 molecules, they are split into two individual O

atoms — O and O. When one of the O atoms combine with O2 molecule, ozone (O3) is

created.
BAD OZONE

Bad Ozone is also known as Tropospheric Ozone, or ground level ozone. This

gas is found in the troposphere, the layer that forms the immediate atmosphere. Bad

Ozone does not exist naturally. Human actions cause chemical reactions between

oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC).

Each time there is a reaction of chemicals such as those found in cars, power

plants and factory emissions, in the presence of sunlight (UV light), Bad Ozone is

created. The lowest layer is known as the troposphere, which makes up approximately

75% of the total mass of the atmosphere and contains 99% of the atmosphere’s water.

The troposphere extends up to approximately 11 kilometers (7 miles) from the surface

and is the layer where atmospheric gases are most concentrated. Nearly all weather

happens in the troposphere, and the jet stream — a narrow, fast-moving “river” of wind

— flows at the upper edge of this layer of the atmosphere

Air temperature in the troposphere typically decreases as altitude increases as a

result of three mechanisms of heat transfer (radiation, conduction, and convection). You

will learn more about these heat transfer mechanisms in the next section on Earth’s

energy balance, but here is a brief overview.

Solar radiation passes through Earth’s atmosphere and heats up the planet’s

surface. The oceans and land absorb approximately half of this incoming solar radiation

while a small fraction is emitted back into the atmosphere as infrared radiation. The heat

absorbed by Earth’s surface is then transferred directly from the land (or the water) to

the cooler air closest to the surface through conduction (the direct spread of heat from
one substance to another). Once heated, this air becomes less dense (or lighter) and

rises through a process called convection. As the air rises, it expands and discharges its

heat as it flows upward through the troposphere. After the heat is discharged and the air

cools, it becomes denser and begins to sink. Consequently, the troposphere is generally

warmest near Earth’s surface and coolest at its highest point.

Based on studies when the Earth has already formed its atmosphere creatures

started to arise, grow, and walk the land. One of the first creatures to thrive in this world

are plants, the earth atmosphere contains elements or gases which is important in the

growth of such. Having said that one of the essential gas for plant growth, development,

and reproduction is Nitrogen. . Despite nitrogen being one of the most abundant

elements on earth, nitrogen deficiency is probably the most common nutritional problem

affecting plants worldwide – nitrogen from the atmosphere and earth's crust is not

directly available to plants.

Nitrogen in Plants

Healthy plants often contain 3 to 4 percent nitrogen in their above-ground tissues.

This is a much higher concentration compared to other nutrients. Carbon, hydrogen and

oxygen, nutrients that don’t play a significant role in most soil fertility management

programs, are the only other nutrients present in higher concentrations.

Nitrogen is so vital because it is a major component of chlorophyll, the compound

by which plants use sunlight energy to produce sugars from water and carbon dioxide

(i.e., photosynthesis). It is also a major component of amino acids, the building blocks of

proteins. Without proteins, plants wither and die. Some proteins act as structural units in
plant cells while others act as enzymes, making possible many of the biochemical

reactions on which life is based. Nitrogen is a component of energy-transfer compounds,

such as ATP (adenosine triphosphate). ATP allows cells to conserve and use the

energy released in metabolism. Finally, nitrogen is a significant component of nucleic

acids such as DNA, the genetic material that allows cells (and eventually whole plants)

to grow and reproduce. Without nitrogen, there would be no life as we know it.

Nitrogen (N) is among the vital elements needed for the survival of living things. It

being an abundant common element on earth, it forms approximately 78% in the earth's

atmosphere. Nitrogen is chemically reacted with other compounds such as ammonia,

nitric acid, organic nitrates and cyanides to form unique compounds with totally different

chemical and physical properties. Since plants cannot use or take nitrogen directly from

the atmosphere, uptake is through nitrogen forms that include ammonium and nitrate.

Importance of Nitrogen to Plants

Nitrogen is a paramount element for plants since it is a core component of many

plant structures and for both their internal and external metabolic processes. Plants are

required to manufacture the complex molecules through metabolism activities to survive

by use of minerals from the soil that contain nitrogen such as nitrate ions. Plants too,
like animals, need some important macro and micro nutrient elements including nitrogen,

oxygen, hydrogen and carbon to keep them healthy. The wellness of plant parts (leaves,

roots, trunks e.t.c) depends on the availability of essential nutrients like nitrogen to

enhance the plant's biological processes including growth, absorption, transportation,

and excretion. Since nitrogen is present in different fertilizers, the plants through the

roots can enhance uptake.

Function of Nitrogen in Plants

Nitrogen (N) in a way could be termed "a backbone" of plants going by what it

does in plants. Of all the essential nutrients, Nitrogen is required by plants in large

amounts since it plays important functions and can be the limiting factor in plant

production and proper crop development. Here is a look at Nitrogen's functions in plants:

 Nitrogen is an essential element of all the amino acids in plant structures

which are the building blocks of plant proteins, important in the growth and

development of vital plant tissues and cells like the cell membranes and

chlorophyll.
 Nitrogen is a component of nucleic acid that forms DNA a genetic material

significant in the transfer of certain crop traits and characteristics that aid

in plant survival. It also helps hold the genetic code in the plant nucleus.

 Chlorophyll being an organelle essential for carbohydrate formation by

photosynthesis and a substance that gives the plant their green color,

nitrogen is a component in it that aids in enhancing these features.

 Nitrogen is essential in plant processes such as photosynthesis. Thus,

plants with sufficient nitrogen will experience high rates of photosynthesis

and typically exhibit vigorous plant growth and development.

Nitrogen Deficiency in Plants

Where there is an insufficient supply of Nitrogen regardless of its abundance in

the atmosphere, it leads to severe plant disorders. Nitrogen deficiency in plants is likely

to occur when other minerals like carbon are added to the soil that would directly lead to

the unavailability of it to the plants. This is because a lot of Nitrogen will be used by soil
organism to break down the harmful carbon sources "taking away" the nitrogen from the

soil. This will automatically translate to the reduction of chlorophyll content of plants,

therefore, affecting flowering, fruiting, starch and protein contents undermining plant

health.

Another important gas found in the atmosphere is the Oxygen it is our primary

life-support. The air we breathe is so vital that without it we would rapidly die. Clean air

is made up of several gases of which Oxygen is the most important to us. Clean air

contains 19%–21% Oxygen. In ancient times people lived longer because the air was

composed of 40% Oxygen. Sadly, the air is decreasing in Oxygen daily. Here is a

compilation of facts about why we must have more oxygen today.

Oxygen.

The generation and maintenance of all our body processes are supported by four

basic life-support components: carbohydrates, water, proteins and energy. Most

scientists agree that oxygen is actually the over-riding key ingredient in all four of these

life-support components. 80% of all our metabolic energy production is created by

oxygen! The human body is largely composed of oxygen, so it is no wonder that

scientists are now discovering how low levels of oxygen can disrupt the body's ability to

function correctly. The oxygen concentration in a healthy human body is approximately

three times that of air. Fortunately, oxygen is the most abundant element on earth

comprising nearly 50% of the earth's crust and averaging about 20% of dry air in a non-

polluted environment. Scientists now also agree that oxygen plays a powerful and

primary role in our overall health and well-being. A growing number of researchers
agree that the best way to improve health may be related to the optimum oxygenation of

every cell.

All metabolic processes in the body are regulated by oxygen. Our brains process

billions of bits of information each second. Our metabolic processes work to rid our

bodies of waste and toxins. Even our abilities to think, feel and act require oxygen-

related energy production. Oxygen also plays a vital role in proper metabolic functions

such as blood circulation, the assimilation of nutrients, digestion and the elimination of

cellular and metabolic wastes. Sufficient oxygen helps the body in its ability to rebuild

itself and maintain a strong and healthy immune system. Although we know that

vitamins, minerals and enzymes are necessary for our health and vitality, you can

actually exist without food for about 40 days, and go without water for about seven days.

Without oxygen — a crucial life-support — life ceases to exist in only minutes.

Factors that may affect our body's precious oxygen supply:

 Diminishing amounts of atmospheric oxygen.

Today, cutting edge researchers believe that even relatively healthy

people may have trouble extracting all of the oxygen that they need from the air.

In fact, the air itself is becoming more and more polluted, making oxygen

extraction more difficult for our life-support. Physiologists understand that

breathing polluted air, or breathing air that contains less oxygen, puts

tremendous stress on the human body. Surprisingly, paleontologists have

analyzed the oxygen in air bubbles trapped in fossilized amber from the Jurassic

Era. Their research revealed that the oxygen levels were significantly higher
than they are today. In fact, many scientists now believe that the dinosaurs

became extinct because of a rapid drop in oxygen and the inability of their

respiratory systems to adapt to this oxygen reduction. If the dinosaurs became

extinct because they could not obtain enough oxygen, is it any wonder that our

bodies can suffer as well as our oxygen supplies are depleted due to pollution?

 The diet's role in oxygen shortages and life-support.

Eating junk food on a regular basis forces the body to use up more of its

oxygen reserves than usual in order to metabolize the preservatives and what

few nutrients may actually be in the "food". Complex carbohydrates and raw fruits

and vegetables are high in oxygen with as much as 50% of the weight of these

foods made up of oxygen. The percentage of oxygen in fats is less than 15%

while the percentage of oxygen in protein is between 20% and 40%, depending

on the protein's amino acid profile. Dense food compounds, such as fats and

proteins, are not only low in oxygen content, but also require extra oxygen from

the body to convert them into energy which further depletes the body's oxygen

reserves. Other oxygen-robbing foods include processed sugar, white flour,

alcohol and caffeinated drinks — definitely not part of a life-support diet. The

body has to divert needed oxygen from primary metabolic functions, such as

heartbeat, blood flow, brain function and immune response, just to oxidize and

metabolize these foods.


 Stress and oxygen.

Any excessive stress, including a heavy workload, traumatic or intense

events in your life, prolonged depression and anxiety, can rob the body of huge

amounts of its much-needed oxygen. Emotional stress produces adrenaline and

adrenaline-related hormones, requiring the body to draw on its oxygen reserves

for their production and eventual oxidation. Infection also depletes the body's

oxygen, which is used to combat bacteria.

 Acidity and oxygen reserves.

Individuals with chronically acidic systems also use up oxygen reserves.

This can lead to a cycle of toxin accumulation and oxygen depletion. One way in

which the body combats excess acidity is by trying to neutralize it with oxygen.

To do so, it must continually divert oxygen away from its primary metabolic

functions and direct it toward the acidic cells and tissues.

 Oxygen shortages and infection.

When body oxygen falls to extremely low levels for prolonged periods of

time, the body may become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria, viruses,

fungi, parasites and other infectious agents. Most of these are anaerobic,

meaning they cannot live in an oxygen-rich environment. Some research

indicates that when the oxygen content of the body is within a normal level,

infectious microorganisms have a more difficult time breeding and multiplying.

The partial pressure of oxygen in normal blood should be approximately 97%.

Within each red blood cell are iron-rich hemoglobin molecules. Approximately 97%
of the oxygen carried to the cells is attached to these hemoglobin molecules with

3% of the oxygen supply dissolved in the blood plasma. When your blood oxygen

levels remain low for extended periods of time, the cells cannot get an adequate

and consistent supply of oxygen and they may have difficulty resisting the

invasion of microorganisms — lessening your natural life-support.

 Lack of exercise.

The body responds to exercise by increasing oxygen intake by breathing

hard and deeper. This increase in blood oxygen levels helps the body perform

two very important functions. First, the additional oxygen permits the creation and

release of more energy for the exercise. Second, the increased supply of oxygen

is utilized by the body to remove by-product wastes that are the result of a higher

metabolic rate. A sedentary lifestyle can inhibit the removal of toxic wastes from

the body.

OXYGEN LIFE-SUPPORT BENEFITS AND FACTS

Benefits of Oxygen

 Heightens concentration, alertness and memory

 Oxygen gives you energy! 90% of our energy comes from oxygen, and only 10%

from food and water

 Oxygen is vital to your immune system, memory, thinking and sight

 Promotes healing and counters aging


 Strengthens your heart, reducing the risk of heart attacks

 Calms your mind and stabilizes your nervous system

 Speeds up the body's recovery after physical exertion

 Provides a natural remedy for headaches, migraines and hangovers

 Relieves temporary altitude discomfort

 Improves digestion and cell metabolism

 Relieves muscle stiffness, supports athletic performance

 Lessens Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

 Gives you better sleep patterns

Facts about Oxygen

 Less than 200 years ago the Earth's atmosphere comprised of 40% oxygen;

today we breathe only 19% - 21%

 Lack of oxygen in our universe is due to pollution, burning of fossil fuels and

overall destruction of the ozone layer

 Everyday we breathe 20,000 times

 Research has demonstrated that our vital lung capacity decreases 5% with every

decade of life. This lung elasticity means less oxygen


 Blood is the liquid carrier of oxygen that fuels all systems, stimulates chemical

reactions and cleans itself of wastes and toxins

 By mass, oxygen makes up 90% of the water molecule; water makes up 65-75%

of the human body

 Our brain, which makes up 2% of our total mass, requires 20% of the body's

oxygen needs

 Cancer attacks every organ in our body, except the heart because of its

abnormal supply of oxygen.

Without the protective layer of gases that make up Earth's atmosphere, the

harsh conditions of the solar system would render the planet a barren, lifeless husk like

the moon. The Earth's atmosphere protects and sustains the planet's inhabitants by

providing warmth and absorbing harmful solar rays. In addition to containing the oxygen

and carbon dioxide, which living things need to survive, the atmosphere traps the sun's

energy and wards off many of the dangers of space.


Temperature

One of the most important benefits the atmosphere provides is maintaining the

Earth’s temperature. On the moon, which has no protective atmosphere, temperatures

can range from 121 degrees Celsius in the sun (250 degrees Fahrenheit) to negative

157 degrees Celsius in the shade (negative 250 degrees Fahrenheit). On Earth,

however, molecules in the atmosphere absorb the sun’s energy as it arrives, spreading

that warmth across the planet. The molecules also trap reflected energy from the

surface, preventing the night side of the planet from becoming too cold.

Radiation

The atmosphere serves as a protective shield against radiation and cosmic rays.

The sun bombards the solar system with ultraviolet radiation, and without protection,

that radiation can cause severe damage to skin and eyes. The ozone layer high in the

Earth’s atmosphere blocks much of this radiation from reaching the surface. Dense

layers of molecular gases also absorb cosmic rays, gamma rays and x-rays, preventing

these energetic particles from striking living things and causing mutations and other

genetic damage. Even during a solar flare, which can greatly increase the damaging

output of the sun, the atmosphere is able to block most of the harmful effects.

Physical Protection

The solar system may seem like a vast and empty place, but in reality it is full of

debris and small particles leftover from planetary creation or collisions in the asteroid

belt. According to NASA, more than 100 tons of space debris strikes Earth every single

day, mostly in the form of dust and tiny particles. When they encounter the molecules
that make up Earth’s atmosphere, however, the resulting friction destroys them long

before they reach the ground. Even larger meteors can break up due to the stresses of

atmospheric re-entry, making catastrophic meteor strikes an incredibly rare occurrence.

Without the physical protection of the atmosphere, the surface of the Earth would

resemble that of the moon, pockmarked with impact craters.

Weather and Water

The atmosphere also serves an important purpose as a medium for the

movement of water. Vapor evaporates out of oceans, condenses as it cools and falls as

rain, providing life-giving moisture to otherwise dry areas of the continents. According to

the U.S. Geological Survey, the Earth’s atmosphere holds around 12,900 cubic

kilometers (3,100 cubic miles) worth of water at any given time. Without an atmosphere,

it would simply boil away into space, or remain frozen in pockets below the surface of

the planet.

Our atmosphere as aforementioned serves as protection from harmful elements

of the sun and other extra terrestrial objects that might enter the planet; those however

are external factors that possess dangers to the inhabitants of earth..There are also

intrinsic factors that possess threats to mankind and other living creatures in one of

which is the ‘Green House Gases. Even though only a tiny amount of the gases in

Earth’s atmosphere are greenhouse gases, they have a huge effect on climate.

There are several different types of greenhouse gases. The major ones

are carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, and nitrous oxide. All of these

have molecules with three or more atoms. The atoms are held together loosely enough
that they vibrate when they absorb heat. Eventually, the vibrating molecule will release

the radiation. The radiation will likely be absorbed by another greenhouse gas molecule.

This process, which keeps heat near the Earth’s surface, is called the greenhouse effect.

Almost all of the other gases in Earth’s atmosphere are nitrogen and oxygen.

The two atoms in these molecules are bound together tightly and unable to vibrate, so

they cannot absorb heat and contribute to the greenhouse effect.

Earth's Greenhouse Effect

Energy from the Sun that makes its way to the Earth’s surface can have trouble

finding its way back out to space. This is because of a natural process called the

greenhouse effect. Without the greenhouse effect, Earth’s temperature would be below

freezing. However, Earth’s greenhouse effect is getting stronger as we add more

greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. And that is warming the climate of our planet.

Heat is radiated into the atmosphere from the Earth’s surface, which is warmed

by sunlight. As the heat makes its way back to space, much of it is absorbed by

greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases are more complex than most

other gas molecules in the atmosphere, with a structure that can absorb heat. They

radiate the heat back to the Earth's surface, to another greenhouse gas molecule, or out

to space.

Sometimes during this Century, the amount of the greenhouse gas carbon

dioxide in the atmosphere is expected to double. Other greenhouse gases like methane

and nitrous oxide are increasing as well. The quantity of greenhouse gases is

increasing as fossil fuels are burned, releasing the gases and other air pollutants into
the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases also make their way to the atmosphere from other

sources. Farm animals, for example, release methane gas as they digest food. As

cement is made from limestone, it releases carbon dioxide.

With more greenhouse gases in the air, heat passing through on its way out of

the atmosphere is more likely to be stopped. The added greenhouse gases absorb the

heat. They then radiate this heat. Some of the heat will head away from the Earth, some

of it will be absorbed by another greenhouse gas molecule, and some of it will wind up

back at the planet’s surface again. With more greenhouse gases, heat will stick around,

warming the planet.

The Earth’s surface, warmed by the Sun, radiates heat into the atmosphere.

Some heat is absorbed by greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and then radiated to

space (A). Some heat makes its way to space directly (B). Some heat is absorbed by

greenhouse gases and then radiated back towards the Earth’s surface (C). With more

carbon dioxide in the atmosphere later this Century, more heat will be stopped by

greenhouse gases, warming the planet.


Conclusion

Indeed, the atmosphere along with its parts and components play a major role in

the lives of every creature that dwells on Earth, all the benefits and aid that it provides

are truly astonishing as it helps mankind and other creation to be able to survive, grow,

and reproduce. The Earth’s atmosphere has gone through a lot of changes for itself,

from its beginning to its current state and it is undoubtable that it still faces change up

until this very moment. Studies are being conducted to be able to preserve our

atmosphere since it has been exposed to threats in the past that is now being paid for

by the current atmospheric conditions. With the proper education, action and take on

responsibility of every individual this atmosphere that has been protecting us since the

beginning, now needs protection itself.

References:

Karthikeyan, K.C. (2015) How Earth’s Atmosphere Leak into Space? Retrieved on

January 28, 2018. Retrieved from https://geekswipe.net/science/physics/how-earths-

atmosphere-leak-into-space/

Layers of the atmosphere (n.d.) Retrieved on January 28, 2018. Retrieved from

https://www.niwa.co.nz/education-and-training/schools/students/layers

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