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What Is the Atmosphere?



What Is the Atmosphere?
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   high interest, readability grades 5 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   4.76

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    exosphere, ionosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, stratosphere, atmospheric, troposphere, radiation, hydrogen, photosynthesis, helium, nitrogen, variation, earth, argon, leeward


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What Is the Atmosphere?
By Patti Hutchison
  

1     Earth, air, water, and fire. The ancient Greeks thought these were the basic elements. They believed these could not be broken down into parts. Today, we know more about the air around us. It is made up of many gases. Together these gases make up the atmosphere. This is a layer of air above the earth. It extends into outer space.
 
2     What are the gases that make up the atmosphere? Ninety-nine percent of air is nitrogen and oxygen. The other one percent is a mixture of water vapor, argon, carbon dioxide, and other gases. Without the atmosphere, there would be no life on our planet.
 
3     It is important that the amounts of nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere never change. If either changed very much, life could not survive. But the amounts of the other gases do change a little. These changes do not harm us.
 
4     The amount of water vapor in the air is always changing. It is always different over different parts of the world. It may change over a certain place within a period of a day or even a few hours. Water vapor may make up as much as four percent of the atmosphere. What causes this variation?
 
5     The percentage of water vapor changes with the seasons. You know that warmer air can hold more moisture than cooler air. So it makes sense that there is more water vapor in the air in spring and summer. Likewise, cooler air in fall and winter is dryer. It doesn't contain as much water vapor.

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