About the Atmosphere: Background Information

Satellite orbiting Earth

Atmosphere icon  This image represents the atmosphere throughout the My NASA data website.


What is the Atmosphere? 

This sphere is the outer part of the Earth System that extends nearly 500 km above Earth's surface and includes an ever-changing mixture of gas and small particles surrounding the Earth’s surface. It includes meteorological features and phenomena such as weather, clouds, or aerosols (particles in the air).

Why is the Atmosphere important?

This sphere is integral to several key functions in the Earth system:

  • Supports life on Earth by supplying the necessary chemicals for life
  • Protects Earth's Biosphere from harmful solar radiation
  • Cycles heat, water, and necessary chemicals through the climate system

What are the layers of the Atmosphere?

Layers of Atmosphere

Diagram of the layers within Earth's atmosphere.
Diagram of the layers within Earth's atmosphere.                        Credit: NASA/Goddard

How does the Atmosphere interact with the spheres in the Earth System?

Links between other Spheres and the Atmosphere


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