Gases That Affect Our Weather
Most of the gases in our atmosphere have little to no effect on our weather patterns. However, a few gases have a significant effect on the weather that we experience around the world. Carbon dioxide is one of these gases. The gas known as carbon dioxide has the unique characteristic of absorbing infrared radiation, or the heat sent to the Earth by the Sun. This helps to insulate the Earth, and to keep the lower atmosphere warm enough for life to exist. Carbon dioxide exists in the atmosphere naturally. In fact, this is one gas that even you have an important role in helping add to the air. Each time you breathe out, your body releases small amounts of carbon dioxide. Over the last one hundred years or so, humans have been artificially adding a significantly higher amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This has mainly been through the burning of fossil fuels. What will happen if carbon dioxide levels become too high? This is unknown, but many scientists believe that there is a possibility that the Earth’s temperature will rise, causing many unpredictable effects.
Earth’s sister planet Venus is a good example of what happens when there is too much carbon dioxide in the air. The planet Venus is almost exactly the same size as the Earth and is made up of just about the same materials. For many decades, scientists believed that life might thrive on the surface of this celestial neighbor. However, as we learned more about Venus, it was discovered that the levels of carbon dioxide in the planet's atmosphere was much higher than that of our own atmosphere. The result of these high levels of carbon dioxide is that much of the Sun’s heat has been trapped on the planet, driving the temperature on the surface up to hundreds of degrees. Much too hot for life.
Another important gas found in the atmosphere of the Earth is known as ozone. Ozone is a molecule made up of three oxygen atoms. This gas is mainly found in a layer of the atmosphere commonly referred to as the ozone layer. The ozone layer lies approximately 9 miles above the surface of the Earth, and continues onward to about 30 miles above Earth’s surface. This gas has the unique ability to absorb the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Like a giant sheet of sunscreen, it protects animals and plants from getting too much of the Sun’s brutal ultraviolet rays. Without this protection, conditions on this planet would be very hazardous to lifeforms.