The study of Earth's atmosphere and its processes is called atmospheric science (aerology).
Early pioneers in the field include Léon Teisserenc de Bort and Richard Assmann.
Air content and atmospheric pressure vary at different layers, and air suitable for use in photosynthesis by terrestrial plants and breathing of terrestrial animals is found only in Earth's troposphere and in artificial atmospheres.
The atmosphere has a mass of about 5.15 three quarters of which is within about 11 km (6.8 mi; 36,000 ft) of the surface.
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Because the general pattern of the temperature/altitude profile is constant and measurable by means of instrumented balloon soundings, the temperature behavior provides a useful metric to distinguish atmospheric layers.
In this way, Earth's atmosphere can be divided (called atmospheric stratification) into five main layers.
The atmosphere of Earth protects life on Earth by creating pressure allowing for liquid water to exist on the Earth's surface, absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention (greenhouse effect), and reducing temperature extremes between day and night (the diurnal temperature variation).
Layers drawn to scale, objects within the layers are not to scale.
Aurorae shown here at the bottom of the thermosphere can actually form at any altitude in this atmospheric layer.
Various industrial pollutants also may be present as gases or aerosols, such as chlorine (elemental or in compounds), fluorine compounds and elemental mercury vapor.
Sulfur compounds such as hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide (SO Earth's atmosphere Lower 4 layers of the atmosphere in 3 dimensions as seen diagonally from above the exobase.