The Earth is our house, but the atmosphere makes it our Home

June 6, 2019

Dear Editor:

Where in the solar system do we live? “On earth,” is the most common answer. However, to say we live on the earth, is like saying we sleep on our bed on our bedroom. We do not sleep on our bedroom or on our bed; we sleep in our bed in our bedroom. This is not meant to be a play on words, this is a very important distinction. We do live on the earth, but more importantly, we live in the earth’s atmosphere. Much like being in your bed in your bedroom keeps you warm, cozy, and safe, it is the earth’s atmosphere that keeps us warm, cozy, and safe!

It is the atmosphere that provides life with all its essential needs. The earth is a cold, hard solid; living life in the ground would be miserable and short lived. In addition, it is hard to move around within the earth. Outer space is even colder and without air; life is not possible there either. Cosmic rays and other high-powered energy would vaporize life upon contact.

It is Earth’s atmosphere that provides life with water, food, shelter, air, and just the right amount of heat. Each one of these needs are complex and intertwined with the solid earth and outer space, but these processes are only possible due to our specific atmosphere. There are thousands of planets and many of the them are known to have atmospheres and yet life is still only known to exist on earth. This is because of the complex and delicate life-sustaining processes our atmosphere can provide.

One process is the water (H2O) cycle. It is a unique phenomenon to Earth. Rivers flow into lakes on the surface and deep aquifers are found within the earth. However, it is the atmosphere that picks the water up and moves it around, continuously redistributing the water over the land and sea. It also deposits rain, snow, and ice to higher elevations allowing the water to move in a continuously cycle.

Another process is heat and temperature. Heat energy held within the atmosphere is the exact amount to allow water to exist as solid ice, liquid water, and gaseous vapor. Our planet is kept at a cozy average temperature of 60-degree Fahrenheit because of the Greenhouse effect. With 0.04% carbon dioxide (CO2), our atmosphere holds onto enough heat to keep us warm from the abyss of space, but not too warm to vaporize the water cycle.

The Greenhouse effect is the process that allows planets to hold on to heat. It can vary greatly such as Mars with its negative 80 degree Fahrenheit temperatures or like Venus at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The exact amount carbon dioxide within our current atmosphere is the precise percentage to maintain this life-sustaining water cycle.

Carbon dioxide is another gas within the atmosphere that is essential for life. Water, Carbon dioxide, and oxygen (O2) are the gases we need to breathe, drink, and even eat. Most people understand that plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, while animals take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide, making a complete circle; this has been called the circle of life.

This circle is a continuous recycling of life’s essential element, carbon. In short, the carbon that is broken off from the carbon dioxide within the plant, as it releases oxygen gas, is used to make food (C6H12O6) and plant fiber (cellulose). Photosynthesis and respiration are a blend of the carbon and water cycles that provides life to all of earth’s plants and animals.

The excess of oxygen gas that plants were able to produce over the millennia allowed the atmosphere to develop yet another life protecting layer, the ozone layer. Ozone (O3) is a gas that forms in the upper atmosphere when oxygen gas is struck by ultraviolet rays from the sun.

Ozone absorbs dangerous UV light protecting earth’s surface from over 90% of the incoming UV light. Not only would sunburns get worse, plants would not be able to grow and develop without the protection of the ozone layer.
Earth is the planet that we live on, but it is our atmosphere that makes this planet our home. Whether it is the way our atmosphere traps enough heat from the sun to keep us warm and the water cycle moving, but not too much to become over-heated and arid and yet protects us from the sun’s deadly ultraviolet rays. All while being fluid enough to move the food, water, and air we breathe through the water and carbon cycle.

Our atmosphere is a wonderful place to call home and like all homes, it is delicate and must be maintained to ensure that it remains a warm and cozy place.

Andrew J. Frisch
Earth Science. Mathematics, STEM teacher
Farwell High School

Share This Post

Error, no group ID set! Check your syntax!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *