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Introduction To Our Atmosphere – Part II

By watching these particulates, we can get an idea of just how volatile the atmosphere is. What would happen, in our previous experiment, if we blow into the light? Doing so would reveal how quickly the air around us gets mixed up. Imagine what happens outside as storms blow the Earth’s atmosphere this way and that. Imagine how quickly the gases in our atmosphere are mixed together. It only takes a few days for particulates from one part of the Earth to be blown all over the planet. Dust particles from the Sahara Desert are blown into the atmosphere and end up all over the Earth.

Dust Storm

The Earth’s atmosphere extends outward to a distance of approximately 6,000 miles. However, the bulk of that atmosphere is compressed into the first 16 miles. The higher that one travels, the less compressed the atmosphere becomes, and the less pressure there is exerted on the items in that atmosphere. Imagine that you are swimming in a giant pool of steel marbles. The deeper you go into the marbles the heavier the marbles become. This is because there are more marbles on top of you, and more weight pushing down on your body. The higher you go, the lighter they become.

The varying pressures of our atmosphere at different elevations has important effects on the weather, on animals and people, and on man-made devices. We will explore these effects more in later chapters.