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This layer is mainly composed of extremely low densities of hydrogen, helium and several heavier molecules including nitrogen, oxygen and carbon dioxide closer to the exobase.The atoms and molecules are so far apart that they can travel hundreds of kilometers without colliding with one another.Various industrial pollutants also may be present as gases or aerosols, such as chlorine (elemental or in compounds), fluorine compounds and elemental mercury vapor.Sulfur compounds such as hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide (SO Earth's atmosphere Lower 4 layers of the atmosphere in 3 dimensions as seen diagonally from above the exobase.The study of Earth's atmosphere and its processes is called atmospheric science (aerology).Early pioneers in the field include Léon Teisserenc de Bort and Richard Assmann.Filtered air includes trace amounts of many other chemical compounds.Many substances of natural origin may be present in locally and seasonally variable small amounts as aerosols in an unfiltered air sample, including dust of mineral and organic composition, pollen and spores, sea spray, and volcanic ash.
Aurorae shown here at the bottom of the thermosphere can actually form at any altitude in this atmospheric layer.
By volume, dry air contains 78.09% nitrogen, 20.95% oxygen, 0.93% argon, 0.04% carbon dioxide, and small amounts of other gases.
Air also contains a variable amount of water vapor, on average around 1% at sea level, and 0.4% over the entire atmosphere.
Because the general pattern of the temperature/altitude profile is constant and measurable by means of instrumented balloon soundings, the temperature behavior provides a useful metric to distinguish atmospheric layers.
In this way, Earth's atmosphere can be divided (called atmospheric stratification) into five main layers.