Earth's Atmosphere

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Compared to the size of the Earth , the atmosphere is a thin shell. The part of the atmosphere we know best - the troposphere - is an even thinner shell, only 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) thick. It is in the troposphere that all weather occurs; it is only here that life exists.

< Space Shuttle Photograph of the Earth’s limb. The thin atmosphere lighted by the setting Sun.
NASA Image STS006-46-147 from NASA Image Exchange


Water in the Atmosphere & El Niņo

Water is a minor, but very important constituent of the Earth's atmosphere.   This image taken by an instrument onboard the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite shows water vapor content over the Pacific Ocean during the El Niņo event of  October, 1997.  Red indicates high water content and blue is low.  High atmospheric moisture corresponds to warmer water. The data show a shift in humidity (and warm water) to the east Pacific. The result was that the heavy rainfall that usually stays west toward Indonesia instead hit the west coast of North America.

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UARS Image of Atmospheric Water Vapor


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Hurricane Fran Perspective View
Image produced by Laboratory for Atmospheres
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Hurricane Fran

This true color perspective of Hurricane Fran was produced from an image taken by the GOES-8 satellite on September 4, 1996.   Satellite observations are invaluable for tracking the paths of tropical storms and other weather systems.

e-magnet.jpg (5385 bytes)  e-atmos.jpg (4886 bytes) e-litho.jpg (4872 bytes)  e-hydro.jpg (4994 bytes)

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