What Does the Atmosphere Do? Crash Course Geography #6 | Summary and Q&A

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February 1, 2021
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What Does the Atmosphere Do? Crash Course Geography #6

TL;DR

Earth's atmosphere acts as a protective layer that filters sunlight and regulates heat, essential for sustaining life.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How does the Earth's atmosphere protect life on the planet?

The atmosphere acts as a filter for sunlight, allowing only certain wavelengths of light to pass through, which is essential for life. It also regulates heat by balancing the incoming solar radiation with the outgoing terrestrial radiation.

Q: What are the main components of Earth's atmosphere?

The Earth's atmosphere is mainly composed of nitrogen and oxygen, with small amounts of other gases like carbon dioxide and argon.

Q: What role do clouds play in the energy balance of the Earth's atmosphere?

Thick clouds can reflect up to 80 percent of total incoming radiation, acting as mirrors that bounce the energy back into space. This reflection affects the amount of solar energy that reaches the Earth's surface.

Q: How does the greenhouse effect contribute to the warming of the Earth's atmosphere?

Certain gases, known as greenhouse gases, have the ability to absorb and re-radiate longwave terrestrial radiation, trapping heat in the atmosphere. Human activities have increased the concentrations of these greenhouse gases, leading to a warming trend and ecological disruptions.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Life on Earth, from the smallest cell to the entire planet, relies on a thin layer of protection provided by the cell's membrane and the Earth's atmosphere.

  • The Earth's atmosphere is composed of a mixture of gases that form a boundary between outer space and the biosphere, where life exists.

  • The atmosphere is divided into layers based on temperature, such as the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, and thermosphere, each with its own characteristics.

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