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Chapter 3
The Atmosphere

Layers of the atmosphere

Earth's atmospheric layers revealing the troposphere (orange-red), stratosphere and above, July 31, 2011
Image courtesy NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

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. 

Learning Outcomes:

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.

You may view a list of chapter topics by clicking the "Topic Outline" link or go directly to the first topic by clicking "Continue".

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For Citation: Ritter, Michael E. The Physical Environment: an Introduction to Physical Geography.
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