When you look up into the sky, there’s not much you can see. And no matter how long you stare at it, you will probably have trouble figuring out what is going on up there. Although we might see a blue sky or even a couple of clouds, there is much more than that hidden in the atmosphere. The truth is that the Earth’s atmosphere acts as a security blanket that pretty much protects our planet from various harmful influences. But what makes the atmosphere so important? Here are ten reasons why the atmosphere matters:
#1. The Earth’s Atmosphere Consists of Major and Minor Layers
There is no doubt that the atmosphere is of huge importance. But what makes it so significant for our planet? As a matter of fact, the Earth’s atmosphere consists of five major and multiple secondary layers. The major layers from the lowest to the highest are the troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere, and exosphere. The minor layers of the atmosphere are the ozonosphere, ionosphere, and magnetosphere. Some sources also consider the exosphere to be the secondary layer of the atmosphere. Each of these layers features a unique composition and serves a special purpose, contributing to the importance of the atmosphere.
#2. The Atmosphere Provides a Place for Plants and Living Beings to Thrive
One of the main reasons why the atmosphere is important is that it protects the Earth from the vacuum. Without the atmosphere, there would be no air on our planet, meaning that no life would exist. Besides, hydroxyl radicals enable the atmosphere to control the amount of pollutants and are responsible for the atmosphere’s self-cleaning properties. The chemistry of our planet’s atmosphere provides a relatively safe environment for plants and living beings to thrive.
#3. The Atmosphere Plays a Key Role in Maintaining the Earth’s Temperature
The temperature on earth depends on the amount of energy entering and leaving the system. Along with nitrogen and oxygen, the troposphere, the lower layer of the atmosphere, consists of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated (industrial) gases. These gases are responsible for keeping the Earth warm by preventing heat loss to space.
#4. The Atmosphere Enables Us to Hear Sounds
As you may already know, the sound is a type of energy or a wave created by a vibrating object. In order to hear sounds, sound vibrations must travel in a wave pattern by means of vibrating objects. As a matter of fact, sound waves cannot travel through empty spaces. However, they can travel through the air, water, or even solids. On the Earth, sound waves use the gases in the atmosphere to move the vibrations. Without the atmosphere, our planet would be completely silent.
#5. The Troposphere Is Responsible for the Movement of Water
The troposphere is the lowest layer of the atmosphere and around 75-80% of the entire atmosphere is in this layer. While other layers contain some moisture as well, the troposphere is the wettest layer acting as a medium for water movement. Hence, almost all weather occurs within the troposphere. Without the troposphere or the atmosphere as a whole, there would not be any weather on earth.
#6. The Stratosphere Protects Life on the Earth from Harmful Ultraviolet Radiation
The ozone layer in the stratosphere acts as a filter that protects us from harmful UV radiation. Ozone absorbs UV-B radiation from the sun, producing oxygen molecules and oxygen atoms. In this way, the ozone layer prevents harmful UV radiation from reaching the Earth. This is why the stratosphere is often considered to be the shield that protects the Earth’s surface through the filtration of UV radiation.
#7. Commercial Planes Fly in the Stratosphere
The stratosphere is a stratified, also referred to as a stable, layer of the atmosphere. Although the atmospheric pressure and oxygen levels are pretty low for human survival, the stratosphere is the ideal layer for commercial planes. There are several reasons for this, including enhanced fuel efficiency, little to no air traffic, fewer risks linked with different weather events, and the ability to handle emergencies in time.
#8. The Mesosphere Provides Physical Protection against Meteors, Rock Fragments, and Other Particles
Along with chemical protection, our planet needs some physical protection as well. The third layer of the atmosphere, known as the mesosphere, is a protective layer that destroys most of the meteors, asteroids, rock fragments, and other particles that can harm the Earth. According to Meteorology en Red, approximately 40 tons of meteorites fall toward our planet daily, but the mesosphere manages to burn them up before they reach the Earth’s surface.
#9. Space Shuttles Fly and the International Space Station Orbits in the Thermosphere
While the thermosphere is yet another protective layer of the atmosphere, it also enables scientists to explore space. Without this layer, space communication would not be possible. According to NASA Science, the thermosphere is home to low Earth orbit satellites and the International Space Station that orbits the Earth.
#10. Ionosphere Is Responsible for Gorgeous Aurora Displays We See across the Night Sky
The ionosphere is one of the secondary layers of the atmosphere. Along with absorbing the extreme UV rays, the ionosphere reflects and modifies radio waves that scientists use for communication and navigation purposes. In the ionosphere, ions from the solar wind collide with the oxygen and nitrogen atoms from the atmosphere, releasing energy that leads to the formation of shimmery aurora displays in the sky.