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Atmospheric Composition and Structure

  • By: Brian H. Bossak
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Generalizations of the size of Earth's atmosphere compared with its lithography (or the solid part of our planet) liken the gaseous shell surrounding Earth to the skin on an apple. Although many might believe the atmosphere to be uniform in gaseous composition or linear in temperature change, this gaseous envelope is much more complex, similar to most environmental systems on Earth. In fact, Earth's atmosphere, while technically “thin,” is nonuniform and consists of many distinct layers that can be classified according to individual parameters. Such parameters include gaseous composition, temperature (termed as the “thermal structure of the atmosphere”), and differences in ionic charge.

Composition of the Atmosphere

The atmosphere is composed of a mixture of gases and aerosols that, when considered in their elemental states, result in ...

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