3: The Atmosphere
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The atmosphere that envelops us reflects the complex interactions between the major spheres that comprise the Earth system. The gaseous composition of the atmosphere is being regulated by the biotic elements of the Earth system as well as the geological processes that have shaped our Earth. Volcanic eruptions release vast quantities of gases and particles into the air causing changes to the composition and heat dynamics of the atmosphere. Human activity has also had a profound impact on the composition of the atmosphere locally, regionally, and globally. In this chapter you will investigate the structure and composition of the atmosphere and its influence on physical systems of the Earth.
By the end of the chapter you should be able to:
- Draw a diagram of the layers of the atmosphere based on temperature change.
- List and explain the importance of the permanent and variable gases that comprise the atmosphere.
- Explain what the greenhouse effect is and how human activities influence global warming.
- Explain the difference between normal and environmental lapse rate.
- Explain the function of the ionosphere and ozonosphere.
See if you are prepared for this chapter by Getting Ready for Chapter 3: The Atmosphere.
- 3.3: Greenhouse Effect
- Solar radiation (shortwave) passes through most of the atmospheric gases without being absorbed to a significant extent. However, longwave radiation emitted from the Earth's surface and directed toward the sky is readily absorbed by greenhouse gases. When absorbed, the temperature of the atmosphere increases. Some of this absorbed energy is emitted to space while some is emitted back towards the Earth. This is the basis for the greenhouse effect.