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Chapter 9: Atmospheric Processes

Difficulty Level: At Grade Created by: CK-12
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On the way to a rendezvous with the International Space Station, the space Shuttle Endeavor stood out against the layers of the atmosphere over the South Pacific. The orange lowest layer is the troposphere, which becomes the white stratosphere and then grades into the mesosphere. It's amazing that the properties of the atmosphere differ enough that they can show up as different colors in the sky.

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Chapter Summary


The layers of the atmosphere are divided by their temperature gradients. The lowest layer is the troposphere, where all weather takes place. The next layer is the stratosphere, which contains the protective ozone layer. The density of the gases decreases with altitude and generally so does temperature. More solar energy strikes at the Equator and this is what drives the global winds. Warm air rises, moves poleward, and then sinks when it meets with air moving toward the Equator. The result is six atmospheric circulation cells, three in each hemisphere. Local differences in temperature also create winds. Where the air is stable for at least a few days, the conditions of the land or water beneath the air alter the air and so creates an air mass. Interactions between air masses bring about a lot of weather; for example, the thunderstorms and tornadoes that form along a front. Weather prediction is much better than it was in past years, due in part to the information gleaned from satellites. Climate is the long-term average of weather. The climate of a location depends on its latitude, position relative to the atmospheric circulation cells, position on a continent, altitude, and position relative to mountains. Where climate is roughly the same, there is a climate zone. The organisms that live within a climate zone create a unique biome.

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Difficulty Level:
At Grade
Date Created:
Feb 24, 2012
Last Modified:
Dec 30, 2016
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