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Geog 111 Lecture Outline: Introduction to Earth's Atmosphere
Update: 9/20/05

Introduction to the Atmosphere

The Four Earthly Spheres

One of the unique characteristics of earth as a planet: its atmosphere

Air: same as atmosphere

The atmosphere completely surrounds the earth

Dimensions of the atmosphere

Atmosphere extends slightly below the surface of the Earth

1. Composition of the Atmosphere

What air is made of:

1a. The Gasses

McKnight fig 3.3: nitrogen, oxygen, and others (table 3.1 for more detail)



Water vapor in the atmosphere

Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere also influences climate: why?

McKnight fig 3.4 (not in current text): ozone

Ozone: comprised of 3 joined oxygen molecules

Sum: various gasses in various amounts in the atmosphere

1b. The Particles

Non gasses: mostly water and ice

McKnight fig 3.4: also dust

Particulates: sources

Particulates affect weather in two ways

2. Vertical Structure of the Atmosphere

2a. Atmospheric Temperature

McKnight fig 3.5

Named thermal layers (-spheres) of the atmosphere

Names for the boundaries (-pause)

Troposphere and Tropopause

Stratosphere and Stratopause

Mesophere and Mesopause

Thermosphere and Exosphere

Temperature variations and altitude

2b. Atmospheric Pressure

2c. Atmospheric Composition

McKnight fig 3.9: the Homosphere

McKnight fig 3.11

McKnight fig 3.12: Sum of Atmospheric Layers

3. Weather and Climate

Weather: short term atmospheric conditions in a given, limited area

Climate: aggregate of day-to-day weather conditions over a long period of time

Dr. Hickcox's Geog 375. Weather and Climate. The elements of meteorology, emphasizing types of weather experienced during the course of a year. Content includes cloud types, warm and cold fronts, and severe weather phenomena such as thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes. A classification of world climates is presented.

4. Elements of Weather and Climate

Four elements as the basis of weather and climate:

Changes in the four elements of weather and climate are driven by several controls

4a. Latitude

McKnight fig 3.14: differential heating

Same amount of energy spread out over larger area north and south of equator.

Solar radiation distribution varies over earth's surface.

4b. General Atmospheric Circulation

McKnight fig 3.13: General Circulation

  • why these patterns?

  • Expand explanation in Ch. 3 (reviewed in McKnight Chapter 5: pp. 111-123)

  • complicated: sketch in notes!

    Hadley Circulation

    PDF) Hadley Circulation

    • equator: hot air rises

    • mid latitudes: cool air sinks and reheats: rises again

    • poles: cool air sinks

    Basic Surface Windfield

    PDF) Basic Surface Windfield

    Coriolis Effect

    Coriolis effect: rotation of earth deflects wind; results in deviation from north/south flows

  • 4c. General Circulation of Oceans

    General Ocean Surface Circulation

    PDF) General Ocean Surface Circulation

    Actual Ocean Circulation: January

    McKnight fig 3.15: ocean currents: effects

    McKnight fig 4.27: more detail

    4d. Distribution of land and water

    4e. Elevation of Landforms

    4f. Topographic Barriers

    McKnight fig 3.17: Orographic Effect

    These six factors drive day to day weather and longer term climate patterns

    Sum: The Earth's Atmosphere

    Very brief overview of the atmosphere, climate, and weather

    1. Composition of the Atmosphere

    2. Vertical Structure of the Atmosphere: variations (up/down) in temperature, pressure, composition of atmosphere

    3. Weather and Climate

    Basic environmental phenomenon which are necessary to understand landforms

    McKnight fig 8.5: Major Climate Zones on Earth

    Also vital to understand: the role water plays in shaping landforms

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