Science - 2018-19

6.6 - Earth's Atmosphere

The student will investigate and understand the properties of air and the structure and dynamics of Earth's atmosphere. Key concepts include

a) air as a mixture of gaseous elements and compounds;

b) pressure, temperature, and humidity;

c) atmospheric changes with altitude;

d) natural and human-caused changes to the atmosphere and the importance of protecting and maintaining air quality;

e) the relationship of atmospheric measures and weather conditions; and

f) basic information from weather maps, including fronts, systems, and basic measurements.

Bloom's Levels:  Analyze; Understand

Adopted: 2010


  • Weather is a short term pattern in atmospheric circulation patterns; climate is a long-term pattern.
  • Radiant energy from the sun creates temperature differences in water, land, and the atmosphere which drive local, regional, and global patterns of atmospheric circulation.
  • Natural hazards pose risk to humans.

  • I can explain the importance of the ozone layer.
  • I can explain why my ears "pop" when traveling up or down a mountain.
  • I can explain why it is colder in the mountains than it is here.
  • I can prevent air pollution.
  • I can predict the weather based on the atmospheric conditions.
  • I can interpret a weather map on the morning news.


  • Air is a mixture of gaseous elements and compounds. These include nitrogen, oxygen, water, argon and carbon dioxide. Nitrogen makes up the largest proportion of air. 
  • Air exerts pressure. Air pressure decreases as altitude increases. 
  • Moisture in the air is called humidity. 
  • The atmosphere is made up of layers (troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, and thermosphere) that have distinct characteristics. 
  • Temperature decreases as altitude increases in the lowest layer of the atmosphere. 
  • Most of the air that makes up the atmosphere is found in the troposphere (the lowest layer). Virtually all weather takes place there. 
  • Forest fires and volcanic eruptions are two natural processes that affect Earth’s atmosphere. Many gaseous compounds and particles are released into the atmosphere by human activity. All of the effects of these materials are not yet fully understood. 
  • The amounts of thermal energy and water vapor in the air and the pressure of the air largely determine what the weather conditions are. 
  • Clouds are important indicators of atmospheric conditions. Clouds are found at various levels within the troposphere. Three major types of clouds are cumulus, stratus, and cirrus. 
  • Ozone, a form of oxygen, can form near the surface when exhaust pollutants react with sunlight. This pollutant can cause health problems. Naturally occurring ozone is also found in the upper atmosphere and helps to shield Earth from ultraviolet radiation. 
  • Maintaining good air quality is a crucial goal for modern society, and it is everyone’s responsibility to work toward it. 
  • Weather maps show much useful information about descriptive air measurements, observations, and boundaries between air masses (fronts). The curved lines showing areas of equal air pressure and temperature are key features of weather maps. Weather maps are important for understanding and predicting the weather. 


In order to meet this standard, it is expected that students will

a)  comprehend and apply basic terminology related to air and the atmosphere.

     identify the composition and physical characteristics of the atmosphere.

b)  analyze and interpret charts and graphs of the atmosphere in terms of temperature and pressure.

     measure and record air temperature, air pressure, and humidity, using appropriate units of measurement and tools.

c)  evaluate their own roles in protecting air quality.

d)  analyze and explain some of the effects that natural events and human activities may have on weather, atmosphere, and climate.

e)  design an investigation to relate temperature, barometric pressure, and humidity to changing weather conditions.

     compare and contrast cloud types and relate cloud types to weather conditions.

     compare and contrast types of precipitation.

     compare and contrast weather-related phenomena, including thunderstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and drought.

f)  interpret basic weather maps and make forecasts based on the information presented.

    map the movement of cold and warm fronts and interpret their effects on observable weather conditions. 


air, air pressure, humidity, troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, warm front, cold front, temperature, barometer, anemometer, air mass, cumulus cloud, stratus cloud, cirrus cloud, ozone, ultraviolet radiation, hygrometer, humidity, front, stationary front, occluded front, maritime air mass, continental air mass, tropical air mass, polar air mass, cumulonimbus cloud, weather vane, thermometer, rain gauge

Updated: Jun 29, 2018