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The Earth is surrounded by a covering of air which we call the atmosphere.

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The Atmosphere

The Earth is surrounded by a covering of air which we call the atmosphere. It reaches over 384 miles from the surface of the earth, so we can only see what occurs in the troposphere and the tropopause.


 Nitrogen – 78%

Oxygen – 21%

Argon – 1%

Carbon Dioxide – 0.035%

Other – 0.00253%

   The above information highlights what the atmosphere is composed of. It is clearly visible that Nitrogen is the dominant gas as over three quarters of the atmosphere is made up of this. It is very fortunate that Nitrogen is not a very reactive gas because if it were not, that atmosphere would be far less stable and extremely dangerous. The pie chart refers to the atmosphere today but it was not always made up of these percentages.

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Natural functions of the atmosphere

   The atmosphere is vital for life and acts as a life support system to all living things, and the atmosphere helps keep the environment stable for life and has been for billions of years. The Earth has the so called ‘Goldilocks’ effect due to the stable conditions that are perfect for life. These conditions include a stable hydrological cycle, steady temperatures that are neither too cold or too hot, crucial gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen and oxygen for life and an ozone layer which limits hazardous radiation. The ozone layer which is located above the stratosphere acts as a guard that absorbs most ultraviolet rays that enter the atmosphere.

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   Due to all these industrial uses there are definitely going to be atmospheric pollutants that will have a major effect on the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases such as methane, carbon dioxide nitrous oxide and of course water vapour all help lead to global warming and climate change. Ozone can also be seen as a pollutant as it is a hazard in the troposphere but is extremely helpful in the upper stratosphere.

    It is clear that the atmosphere is crucial when keeping a stable planet and life would not be able to exist without it.

(615 words)

Kristian Rees (E)

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