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Earth’s Atmosphere
Learning Objectives
Supplemental Reading
Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:
1. Define weather and how it is different from climate.
2. Describe the major components of clean, dry air.
3. Describe the extent and structure of the atmosphere.
4. Explain what causes temperature to vary from place to place.
5. Explain how the atmosphere is heated and what causes seasons.
6. Discuss humidity, basic cloud-forming processes, and the mechanisms
that initiate the vertical movement of air.
7. Describe fog, how it forms and how precipitation is produced in a cloud.
8. Identify the criteria used for cloud classification and the conditions
necessary for condensation.
9. Discuss global warming and ozone depletion.
Ozone Science: The Facts
Behind the Phaseout
Unit Summary
Chapter 11:
Heating the Atmosphere
Chapter 12:
Moisture, Clouds, and
Global Warming Frequently
Asked Questions
Key Terms
Key Terms are in bold
lettering within the chapters.
Definitions for each key
term can be found within
the reading and within the
glossary beginning on page
489 of the textbook.
An all-encompassing approach regarding Earth’s atmosphere will be included in
this unit as we explore Chapters 11 and 12 in our textbook. We begin our study in
this unit with “Heating the Atmosphere,” introducing the subject of meteorology by
presenting its definition, noting the differences between weather and climate, and
listing the elements of weather. We will also include in our study an assessment of
the chemical composition of the atmosphere and the depletion of ozone. The
structure and extent of the atmosphere is also examined.
Also in Chapter 11, we will examine the heating of the atmosphere. The variables
that control the quantity of solar radiation intercepted and reflected will be
identified, followed by a detailed investigation of the seasons. Radiant energy and
common mechanisms of heat transfer are introduced, which will lead us into a
discussion of atmospheric heating by solar and terrestrial radiation. The factors that
cause variations in temperature, such as, differential heating of land and water,
altitude, and geographic position, will also be explained. Our study of this chapter
concludes with a short summary of the global distribution of world surface
In Chapter 12, we will examine the process of “Moisture, Clouds, and Precipitation”
and begin with an examination of the processes and energy requirements involved
in the changes of state of water, including the ability of water to store and release
latent heat. After you read about the various methods used to express humidity, we
will explore further the relationship between temperature, water vapor content,
relative humidity, and dew-point temperature. You will also investigate the adiabatic
process and formation of condensation aloft. We will also review the processes that
lift air, and evaluate the conditions that influence the stability of air. Included in your
chapter reading will be a classification of cloud types (cirrus, cumulus and stratus)
as well as a review of formation and types of fog. Chapter 12 will conclude with an
explanation of the processes involved in the formation of precipitation and the
various forms of precipitation.
ES 1010, Earth Science