Chapter 1:
Introduction to the Atmosphere

Learning Objectives

Each statement represents the primary learning objective for the corresponding section heading within this chapter.  After you complete this chapter, you should be able to:


Earth’s atmosphere is unique. No other planet in our solar system has an atmosphere with the exact mixture of gases or the heat and moisture conditions necessary to sustain life as we know it. The gases that make up Earth’s atmosphere and the controls to which they are subject are vital to our existence. In this chapter we begin our examination of the ocean of air in which we all must live. 

This satellite image shows Hurricane Sandy, called Superstorm Sandy in the media, battering the U.S. east coast on October 30, 2012. This view of the storm is looking south from Canada. Florida is near the top of the image.

Chapter Outline

Focus on the Atmosphere

The Nature of Scientific Inquiry

Earth as a System

Composition of the Atmosphere

Vertical Structure of the Atmosphere