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15.1: Chapter 15: Earth’s Atmosphere

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Chapter Overview

This chapter describes the properties, significance, and layers of Earth’s atmosphere. It also explains how energy is transferred through the atmosphere and how air moves through the atmosphere and over Earth’s surface.

Online Resources

See the following Web sites for appropriate laboratory activities:

Students can observe convection currents and how they affect the atmosphere by doing the hands-on modeling lab “Atmospheric Processes—Convection” (see URL below). Students will understand that temperature changes can cause density changes in water and that the same phenomenon happens in air. The lab includes background information, assessments, and suggested modifications for differentiated instruction.

The global winds lab at the following URL simulates global wind patterns in a cake pan. After students have completed the lab, they should be able to explain how heat energy is redistributed through the atmosphere; why rising air is associated with low atmospheric pressure and why sinking air is associated with high atmospheric pressure; and how and why Earth’s rotation deflects the wind in both Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

These Web sites may also be helpful:

You can find many common student misconceptions about the atmosphere at this URL:

The URL below is an online teaching module for middle school science teachers. It deals with many aspects of Earth’s atmosphere, including the greenhouse effect and the stratospheric ozone layer. It includes a large selection of student activities on a diversity of specific topics.

The following URL is a video clip in which Bill Nye the Science Guy explains the layers of the atmosphere in his usual entertaining fashion.

The excellent video “The Precious Envelope” from the University of Maryland introduces students to the atmosphere and its importance as well as how human actions are changing the atmosphere.

You can find a useful set of slides covering the information in the lesson “Air Movement” at this URL: http://www.slideshare.net/cpelfrey/global-and-local-winds.

Pacing the Lessons

Lesson Class Period(s) (60 min)
15.1 The Atmosphere 1.5
15.2 Energy in the Atmosphere 1.5
15.3 Layers of the Atmosphere 1.5
15.4 Air Movement 1.5

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