The atmosphere started its formation together with the formation of the Earth. During the evolution of the planet and in the process of approaching of its parameters to modern values, there were dramatic changes in its chemical composition and physical properties. According to the evolutionary model, the Earth was in a melted state for about 4.5 billion years before it became a solid body (The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, 2016, p. 5). This time is considered to be the beginning of the geological chronology. Mankind was interested in the research of the atmosphere for a long time, but the first devices for the assessment of the atmosphere, such as thermometers, barometers, and weathercock, were invented 300-400 years ago (Walmsley, 2010, p.1). The atmosphere represents the so-called “air cover” surrounding the Earth and rotating around the Sun. The space filled with gas or vapors represents the atmosphere. The scientific research is aimed at collecting and monitoring atmospheric processes with the use of innovative technological means. The network of earth-based meteorological stations equipped with various devices allows for observing atmospheric conditions. Thus, being one of the key research topics, the atmosphere, which represents the deep-air ocean, has been thoroughly examined for centuries and has essentially influenced mankind.
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History of the Atmosphere Research
The land surface is surrounded with the gas-air cover or the atmosphere that influences the rotation of the Earth. Human life occurs at the bottom of the atmosphere. The increase in height decreases the density of the air, and the atmosphere gradually fades without a sharp border. Half of the atmospheric mass is concentrated in the lowest 5 km, three-quarters in the lowest 10 km, and nine-tenths in the lowest 20 km (Sharp, 2017). However, the air presence is found at a great height.
The polar lights indicate the existence of the atmosphere at the height of 1000 km and above. The flights of satellites at the height of several thousands of kilometers occur in the extremely rarefied atmosphere (Sharp, 2017). The observations made by the space rockets demonstrate that the atmosphere extends to a height of more than twenty thousand kilometers. Space rockets and some satellites with complex flight trajectories can repeatedly leave the atmosphere and penetrate interplanetary space.
The different indirect methods, such as the sound waves distribution, the meteoric traces, and the movement of the nacreous and silvery clouds, have been used for the study of the upper atmospheric layers for a long time. The research of the high atmospheric layers has a high practical value as it allows a considerably increasing air speed up to more than 2000 km/h. The research of the atmosphere indicates a decrease in the air temperature by 5-7°C per kilometer. Moreover, the study of the upper layers of the atmosphere with special balloons allowed finding out that the fall of temperature continues up to 18 kilometers over the equator and up to 7 – 8 kilometers at the Poles (Sharp, 2017). At big heights from 30 up to 60 kilometers, the temperature rises up to +65°C and again decreases to -8 ° at the height of 80 kilometers (The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, 2016, p. 28). At a height of 200 kilometers, it reaches hundreds of degrees of heat. The valuable data in the research on the top layers of the atmosphere and interplanetary space are collected by the artificial Earth satellites and space flights.
Scientists in the History of the Atmosphere
On December 1, 1783, the French scientist Pilatre de Rozier made an unprecedented flight to the stratosphere on pear-shaped balloons filled with hydrogen. The researcher was in the spherical metal gondola that was well-equipped and closed hermetically. During the second flight, professor Jacques Alexandre Cesar Charles flew an extra 3 km and experienced the oxygen starvation and ear pain from the fast change of pressure. The subsequent experience confirmed the emergence of painful feelings at height. Moreover, the famous aeronaut Etienne Gaspard Robert had a deterioration in health while flying on a satellite in 1803 (Sharp, 2017). In 1804, three Italian aeronauts felt dizziness and nausea at a height of 6 km. Besides, the changes in health were also caused by the cold temperature, falling down to 43°C at the height of 9 km (Sharp, 2017). Therefore, the first researchers proved that height could influence health.
The temperature and air pressure at various heights composed the key measured parameters. A thermometer and a barometer were present at the board of each research flight. Moreover, in 1786, the first attempt of measuring atmospheric voltage was made. In 1804, the French Academy of Sciences organized two flights of famous physicists Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and Jean-Baptiste Biot (Sharp, 2017). However, scientific flights to the great height started in the third quarter of the 19th century in England and France. In 1850, the Meteorological Society was organized at the initiative of the meteorologist James Glaisher in 1866 (Sharp, 2017). On the basis of the data obtained by Glaisher during numerous flights, the scientist formed the general law that the air temperature changes with the height as well as the impact exerted on the distribution of temperature by overcast, humidity, or season. The results of his observations had been used by researchers until the end of the 19th century. Since 1892, research flights had been conducted by the Berlin Aeronautic Society.
Major Processes in the Atmosphere
The processes occurring in the atmosphere develop generally as a result of the transformations of the energy from the Sun. There are constant transformations in solar energy as well as the circulation of heat, moisture, and various impurities. Optical, electric and other phenomena happen in the atmosphere. Due to the fact that the atmosphere is in continuous interaction with the Earth’s surface, the influence of geographical factors, such as the character of a surface and the relief features, are considered in the studies of the atmosphere.
The set of natural processes and the physical phenomena, which define the image of the Earth and influence the existence of mankind, impact the atmosphere. The main atmospheric processes include heat exchange, evaporation, and exudation of moisture, mass transfer, presence of impurities, optical and acoustic phenomena, electric discharges, magnetic fields, the distribution of electromagnetic oscillations, the course of various chemical reactions, the combustion of celestial bodies and other processes (The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine, 2016, p. 36). Moreover, the atmosphere constantly interacts with the Earth, meaning that the former is influenced by surface relief, large water areas, human economic activities, and the casual fluctuations of various geographical factors (Sharp, 2017). The natural phenomena in the atmosphere are the subjects of the fundamental laws of physics and chemistry.
The physical and chemical processes, constantly occurring in the atmosphere, are not separated from each other. On the contrary, they exist in interconnected relations, and their combination constantly changes. The atmospheric phenomena determine the state of the air or the weather conditions.
The Atmosphere and its Impact on Mankind and its Place on the Planet
People live in the lower layers of the troposphere. The phenomena occurring in the atmosphere exert a direct impact on mankind. Many of them are dangerous for humans. Therefore, depending on the nature of atmospheric phenomena in various areas of the Earth, people can experience different events.
The long and thorough scientific research of the atmosphere and its changes allowed specifying the main properties and making general conclusions about the importance and the impact of the atmosphere on mankind. Certain properties of the atmosphere are important for the existence of people. According to Walmsley (2010), first of all, it is oxygen that is necessary for the preservation of human life. Secondly, the atmosphere is the reservoir of harmful chemicals of technogenic origin, pathogenic microorganisms, and the elements which cause respiratory tract infections (Walmsley, 2010, p.3). These factors lead to a direct or indirect impact on human health and sanitary living conditions. Thirdly, the atmosphere is also an important climate-forming factor because it defines the quality of the air. For example, such processes as global warming and the greenhouse effect impact mankind. Fourthly, it is one of the leading factors of the thermoregulatory processes in the human body. Fifthly, it is the habitat that can reduce solid substances, vapors and gases, pathogenic microorganisms, and harmful chemicals (Walmsley, 2010, p.2). Finally, the condition of the atmosphere impacts the pollution of the soil with chemical and radioactive substances.
The atmosphere is the gas cover of the planet which consists of a mix of various gases, water, dust, and steam. The quality of the atmosphere has a strong impact on different biological and social processes, including the health of the population. The existence of the atmosphere is one of the necessary living conditions of life on Earth. The atmosphere regulates the climate and the daily fluctuations of the temperature on the planet. It is a source of oxygen which is vital for breathing. It also affects the heat exchange and other functions of organisms. The history of the research on the atmosphere shows that scientists made a breakthrough in the atmospheric sciences, but further research will allow discovering the new properties and impacts of the atmosphere on mankind.
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