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Weather Part 1. Solar Energy as Radiation. Figure 1.1. Nearly 150 million kilometers separate the sun and earth, yet solar radiation drives earth's weather. Weather and Climate. Weather is defined as the state of the atmosphere at a particular time and place.

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Solar Energy as Radiation

Figure 1.1

Nearly 150 million kilometers separate the sun and earth, yet solar radiation drives earth's weather.

weather and climate
Weather and Climate

Weather is defined as the state of the atmosphere at a particular time and place.

Climate is the general pattern of weather that occurs in a region over a period of years.

Weather is short term, climate is long term.

weather and climate1
Weather and Climate

Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a particular time and place.

The six weather elements include:

  • Atmospheric pressure
  • Temperature
  • Wind
  • Precipitation
  • Cloudiness
  • Humidity

Earth's Atmosphere

Thin Gaseous envelope

Figure 1.2

The atmosphere is a thin layer of air that protects the Earth’s surface from extreme temperatures and harmful sun rays


Gases in the Atmosphere

  • This circle graph shows the percentages of the gases, excluding water vapor, that make up Earth's atmosphere.

Atmospheric Pressure

  • Atmospheric gases have mass.
  • Atmospheric gases extend hundreds of kilometers above Earth's surface.
  • As Earth's gravity pulls the gases toward its surface, the weight of these gases presses down on the air below.
  • Air pressure and air density are greatest at sea level and decrease with altitude.
structure of the earth s atmosphere
Structure of the Earth’s Atmosphere
  • Five Layers:
  • Troposphere
  • Stratosphere
  • Mesosphere
  • Thermosphere
  • Exosphere (not shown)
structure of atmosphere
Structure of Atmosphere


  • Lowest and thinnest layer but contains 90% of the atmosphere’s mass
  • Where weather occurs
    • water vapor and clouds
  • Temperature decreases with altitude; Most of the heat in this layer comes from the earth.
structure of atmosphere1
Structure of Atmosphere


  • Top of troposphere to 50 km above surface
  • Ozone layer
    • Absorbs harmful UV radiation
      • UV radiation splits O2 molecules to single O atoms, which collide with O2 molecules to create ozone, O3 molecules
  • In this layer, temperature increases with altitude because of ozone absorption of UV radiation.
    • Ranges from –50°C at base to 0°C at top


  • Chlorofluorocarbon molecules destroy ozone.
  • When a chlorine atom from a chlorofluorocarbon molecule comes near a molecule of ozone, the ozone molecule breaks apart.

Video: Ozone Hole - YouTube

structure of atmosphere2
Structure of Atmosphere


  • Coldest Layer; Temperature decreases with altitude

Thermosphere and Exosphere:

  • These layers are not well defined.
  • First layers to receive the sun rays.
structure of atmosphere3
Structure of Atmosphere


  • Temperature increases with altitude
    • Temperature is related to average speed of gas molecules—very high speed gives high temperatures
  • Very low density of gas molecules means very little heat absorption
    • Very few air molecules collide with one another—low thermometer reading

Heating the Atmosphere

  • Some energy is reflected back into space by clouds, particles, and Earth's surface.
  • Some is absorbed by the atmosphere or by land and water on Earth's surface.
heating the atmosphere
Heating the Atmosphere
  • Energy flows from an object with a higher temperature to an object with a lower temperature
  • Heat is transferred through the atmosphere by:
    • Radiation: energy that is transferred in the form of rays or waves
    • Conduction: energy that is transferred when molecules bump into each other
    • Convection: energy that is transferred by flow of material
      • Molecules move closer together, making air more dense, and air pressure increases
      • Cold air sinks, pushing up warm air, which then cools and sinks, pushing up more warm air

Greenhouse Effect

  • Solar energy that is absorbed by the Earth’s land and water is changed to heat that moves/radiates back into the atmosphere (troposphere) where gases absorb the heat, a process known as the greenhouse effect.