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AP Enviro Sci 2013.

Weather is caused by

the movement or transfer of heat energy

Atmosphere Components

Nitrogen (78%)
Oxygen (21%)
Water Vapor (0-4%)
Carbon Dioxide (<<1%) due to burning of fossil fuels and deforestation
Methane (<<1%) due to fossil fuels, coal mining, landfills, grazers, rice fields, and other natural causes
Nitrous Oxide (<<1%) due to fertilizer, burning biomass, deforestation
Ozone (<<1%) due to chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)

Atmospheric Layers (bottom to top)

Troposphere, stratosphere, mesosphere, thermosphere (ionosphere)


75% of atmoshpere's mass in here, temperature decreases with altitude, weather occurs here


temperature increases with altitude due to absorption of heat by ozone, ozone is produced by UV radiation and lightning, contains the ozone layer


temperature decreases with altitude, coldest layer, ice clouds occur here, meteors (shooting stars) burn up in this layer


temperature increases with altitude due to gamma rays, X-rays, and UV radiation, molecules are converted into ions resulting in the aurora borealis (northern lights) and aurora australis (southern lights)

air mass

a large body of air that has similar temperatures and moisture content

Air pressure

gravity on air mass creates air pressure measured in libars, inches of Hg, or hectopascals
Low pressure produces cloudy stormy weather
High pressure contains cool, dense air that descends towards Earth's surface associated with fair weather


ocean water = low albedo, snow and ice = high albedo.


flow of electromagnetic radiation, how earth receives solar energy


energy transferred by the collisions that take place between heat-carrying molecules


the movement of warmer and therefore more energetic molecules in air, takes place both vertically and horizontally

for every _______ ft, there is a ___ degrees Fahrenheit drop in temperature

1000 ft, 3 degrees Fahrenheit

Angle of Sunlight

in the northern hemisphere, earth is closes to the sun; areas closest to the equator receive the most sunlight and therefore higher temperatures

Carbon cycle

the consumption of carbon in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2) results in cooling

Carbonate Rock Weathering

CO2 + H2O + CaCO3 -> Ca+2 + 2HCO3-

Silicate Rock Weathering

2CO2 + H2O + CaSiO3 -> Ca+2 + 2HCO3- + SiO2

Carbonate formation in the oceans....

Ca+2 + 2HCO3- -> CO2 + H2O + CaCO3

Metamorphic breakdown of carbonate

SiO2 + CaCO3 -> CO2 + CaSiO3


collection of water droplets or ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere; as warmer air rises, it expands due to decreasing air pressure

Distance to Oceans

oceans are thermally more stable than landmasses


when two different air masses meet, the boundary between them forms a front

Greenhouse effect

the most important greenhouse gases are water, carbon dioxide, and methane

Heat (Convection)

Climate is influenced by how heat energy is exchanged between air over the oceans and the air over land

Landmass distribution

materials absorb and reflect radiation to different extents


the higher the latitudes, the less solar radiation

Moisture content of Air (Humidity)

primary determinant of plant growth and distriution and is a major determinant of biome type, also traps heat energy leaving earth's surface

Mountain Ranges

rainshadow effect: the side facing the ocean is the windward side and receives rain, the side of the mountain opposite the ocean is the leeward side and receives little rain

Plate tectonics and Volcanoes

affect atmospheric carbon dioxide which factors into climate changes through the greenhouse effect


the wobble of earth on its axis changes the amount of energy received by the sun


24 hour, sunset, sunrise

wind patterns

influenced by temperature and pressure differences (gradients)

Global air circulation is caused and effected by:

-uneven heating of the Earth's surface
-the Coriolis effect

Anabatic winds

develop in hilly or mountainous areas during the day-time, especially if the wather is relatively calm with at least some sunshine; air around the hilltops becomes warmer than the air at the same altitude over adjacent valleys

Katabatic winds

occur on still nights when the air that is in contact with ground loses heat rapidly by radiation back to space; air near the ground over hill and mountain summits becomes cooler than air at the same altitude over adjacent valleys

Pleistocene Ice Age (2 million BCE to 12,000 BCE)

Large glacial ice sheets covered much of North America, Europe, and Asia, had periods when the glaciers retreated (interglacial) and advanced (glacial)

12000 BCE to 3000 BCE

warming of earth and subsequent glacial retreat began about 14000 years ago, only slightly interrupted by a cooling period, also known as climatic optimum that began man great ancient civilaztions

3000 BCE to 750 BCE,

cooling caused large drops in sea levels and the emergence of many islands

750 BCE to 900 CE

Roman empire era, a cooling that caused the Nile River and Black Sea to freeze

900 CE to 1200 CE (Little Climatic Optimum)

the vikings established settlements on Greenland and Iceland, period of cool and more extreme weather followed this, records of floods, great droughts, and extreme seasonal climate fluctuations up to the 1400s

1550 CE to 1850 CE (Little Ice Age)

global temperatures were their coldest since the begining of Holocene, average temp was 1 degree celsuis lower than today

Convection Cell diagram
Second Picture!

trade winds

the prevailing pattern of easterly surface winds found in the tropics within the lower portion of the Earth's atmosphere, in lower section of the trophosphere near the Earth's equator


measures wind speed

Wind Vane

measured wind direction

Coriolis effect

Earth's rotation on its axis causes winds not to travel straight, it causes prevailing winds in the Norther Hemisphere to spiral clockwise out from high-pressure areas and spiral counterclockwise in toward low pressure areas

Hadley Air Circulation Cells

Air heated near the equator rises and spreads out north an south, characterized by high humidity, high clouds, a nd heavy rains, temperature is variation from day to night (diurnal)

Ferrel Air Circulation

develop between 30 degrees and 60 degrees north and south latitudes, midlatitude climates can have severe winters and cooler summers

Polar Air Circulation Cells

icy-cold, dry, dense air that descends from the trophosphere to the ground


begin over warm oceans in areas where the trade winds converge, cyclonic circulation causes thunderstorms that developed over the ocean to move in circular motion


swirling masses of air with wind speeds close to 300 miles per hour; like hurricanes, the center is an area of low pressure


strong, often violent winds that change direction with the season; monsoons flow from land to ocean in the winter and ocean to land in the summer

Rain Shadow Effect

Low precipitation on the far side (leeward side) of a mountain when prevailing winds flow up and over a high mountain or range of high mountains. This creates semiarid and arid conditions on the leeward side of a high mountain range.

Normal State (w/o el nino or la nina)

Walker circulation (easterly trade winds move water and air warmed by the sun to the east), ocean is generally around 2 feet higher in the western pacific and 14 degrees F warmer; the western side of the equatorial Pacific is characterized by warm, wet low-pressure weather (as the collected moisture is released in the form of typhoons and thunderstorms)

El Nino

air pressure patters in the south pacific reverses (air pressure at Australia is higher than Tahiti); the trade winds decrease in strength; normal flow of water away from South America decreases and ocean water piles up off South America; pushes the thermocline deeper and decreases the upwelling of nutrient-rich deep water which results in extensive fish kills off the South American coast. With a deeper thermocline and decreased westward transport of water, the sea surface temperature increases in the eastern pacific, the net result is a shift of the prevailing rain pattern from the normal western pacific to the central pacific, rainfall is more comoon in central pacific while the western pacific becomes relatively dry

La Nina

trade winds blow west across the tropical Pacific are stronger than normal leading to increased upwelling off South America and hence cooler-than-normal leading to increased upwelling off South America and hence cooler-than normal sea surface temperatures, prevailing rain pattern also shifts farther west than normal, winds pile up warm surface water in the western Pacific

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