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Chapter 3-Intro to Atmosphere

Chapter 3-Intro to Atmosphere - The atmosphere is a mixture...

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The atmosphere is a mixture of gas molecules, microscopically small suspended particles of solid and liquid, and falling precipitation. Meteorology is the study of the atmosphere and the processes that cause what we refer to as the “weather.”
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If we think of the atmosphere as a reservoir for gas, the gas concentration in the reservoir will remain constant so long as the input rate is equal to the output rate. Under such conditions, we say that the concentration of the gas exists in a steady state .
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The average length of time that individual molecules of a given substance remain in the atmosphere is called the residence time . The residence time is found by dividing the mass of the substance in the atmosphere (in kilograms) by the rate at which the substance enters and exits the atmosphere (in kilograms per year).
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Atmospheric gases are often categorized as being permanent or variable, depending on whether their concentration is stable. Permanent gases are those that form a constant proportion of the atmospheric mass. Permanent Gases of the Atmosphere
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Permanent gases account for the greater part of the atmospheric mass—99.999 percent—and occur in a constant proportion throughout the atmosphere’s lowest 80 km (50 mi). Because of its chemical homogeneity, this region within 80 km of Earth’s surface is called the homosphere .
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Above the homosphere is the heterosphere , where lighter gases (such as hydrogen and helium) become increasingly dominant with increasing altitude. Because its composition varies with altitude, the heterosphere contains no truly permanent gases.
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Variable gases are those whose distribution in the atmosphere varies in both time and space. The most abundant of the variable gases, water vapor , occupies about one-quarter of 1 percent of the total mass of the atmosphere. Most atmospheric water vapor is found in the lowest 5 km (3 mi) of the atmosphere. Variable Gases of the Atmosphere
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Water is constantly being cycled between the planet and the atmosphere through the hydrologic cycle . Water continuously evaporates from both open water and plant leaves into the atmosphere, where it eventually condenses to form liquid droplets and ice crystals. These liquid and solid particles are removed from the atmosphere by precipitation as rain, snow, sleet, or hail.
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Another important variable gas is carbon dioxide (.037%).
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