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Chapter 2 of Elemental Geosystems (Christopherson), 4th edition


The equatorial region experiences energy ________ (surpluses? deficits?)


The polar regions experience energy ________ (surpluses? deficits?)

the Milky Way Galaxy

A flattened, disk-shaped mass estimated to contain nearly 400 billion stars


The key organizing force in the condensing solar nebula (and creation of our Solar System)

planetesimal hypothesis

The concept that suns condense from nebular clouds and planetestimals form in orbits around their central masses.


what moves at about 6 trillion miles per year? (the speed of_______)

8 minutes, 20 seconds

Light from the Sun reaches Earth in an average of __minutes, __seconds


Earth at its closest position to the Sun (occurs on January 3rd)


Earth at its farthest position from the Sun (occurs on July 4th)


The ______ is the only object in the entire Solar System that produces thermonuclear energy.


Hydrogen atoms are joined in this process, which takes place within the Sun and results in the release of great amounts of energy.

solar wind

The Sun constantly emits ionized (electrically charged) particles that surge outward in all directions from the Sun's surface. This phenomenon is called:


large magnetic storms on the Sun's surface


A magnetic field surrounding the Earth, which deflects much of the solar wind so that only a small portion of it enters the atmosphere


Lighting effects that occur in the upper atmosphere when absorbed energy is rereadiated as light energy of varying colors.

aurora borealis

northern lights

aurora australis

southern lights


true / false: the Sun is way, way, way, way bigger than the Earth (see figure 2.2)

electromagnetic energy

The key solar input to life

electromagnetic spectrum

The whole spectrum of radiant energy is called the ________ _________


true / false: Everything on the electromagnetic spectrum is from solar radiation


The distance between corresponding points on any two successive waves.


The number of waves passing a fixed point in one second (the speed of the waves)


Approximately what percentage of the Sun's emitted radiant energy is composed of VISIBLE light wavelengths? (p.40)


true / false: Because hotter objects usually emit shorter wavelengths, the Sun emits shorter wavelengths than the Earth.


the region at the top of the atmosphere (about 300 miles above Earth's surface)


Solar radiation that is actually intercepted by the Earth (which is only a tiny bit of the Sun's energy output). This term is a condensed way of saying "intercepted solar radiation."

solar constant

The average value of intercepted energy from the Sun (insolation) received at the thermopause (the top layer of Earth's atmosphere)


true / false: the global distribution of insolation (energy from the Sun intercepted by the Earth) is even.

subsolar point

The only point on Earth that receives insolation from directly overhead. (occurs between the two tropics, 23.5 degrees N and 23.5 degrees S).


true / false: All places away from the subsolar point receive insolation at an angle less than 90 degrees and thus experience more diffuse energy.


rays of the sun that are not direct rays are called _______ rays


refers to both the seasonal variation of the Sun's position above the horizon and the changing daylengths during the year.


Seasonal variations are a response to changes in the Sun's _________, or the angle between the horizon and the Sun.


The Sun is at its _______ when it's altitude is 90 degrees (directly overhead)


The Sun's _________ is the latitude of the subsolar point (which is always somewhere between the tropics)

the Tropic of Cancer

Which is north of the equator: the Tropic of Cancer or the Tropic of Capricorn?


daylength varies during the year depending on ___________.


Along what line do people receive equal hours of day and night?


This refers to Earth's orbit around the Sun, NOT Earth turning on its axis.


This refers to Earth turning on its axis, NOT Earth's orbit around the Sun.

the length of the year

Does Earth's revolution determine the length of the year, or the length of a day?

24 hours

How long does it take Earth to complete one rotation?


rotation or revolution: What determines daylength, the deflection of wind and ocean currents, and the twice-daily rise and fall of the ocean tides (in relation to the gravitational pull of the Sun and Moon)?


When viewed from the North Pole, Earth rotates ____________(what direction) around its axis.


When viewed at the equator, does the Earth move westward or eastward? (p.45).

circle of illumination

The dividing line between day and night. This circle intersects the equator, which is why daylength at the equator is evenly divided.


With the exception of the equator, all latitudes experience uneven daylength throughout the seasons, except for 2 days a year (March 21 or 22 and September 21 or 22), which are called the _________.


Is the plane of the ecliptic associated with revolution or rotation?


Is the plane of the equator associated with revolution or rotation?

axial tilt

The line of the equator essentially exists because of the Earth's ______ ______ (p.45)

axial parallelism

As it journeys around the Sun, Earth's axis maintains the same alignment and orientation. The axis is parallel to itself at each stage. This is known as:


The 2 times of year (around June 21 or 22 and December 21 or 22) that mark the times when the Sun's declination places it directly over one of the 2 tropics.


The 2 ______ are the parallels of latitude that represent the Sun's farthest northerly or southerly position.


Soltices and equinoxes are based upon the Sun's __________, which is the location of the subsolar point


The September equinox is also called the autumnal equinox. The March equinox is also called the _______ equinox.


a simple additive mixture of gases that is naturally odorless, colorless, tasteless, and formless, blended so throughly that it behaves as if it were a single gas.


The atmosphere is considered to go up 300 miles from Earth's surface. Past this point, the atmosphere is basically a vacuum, and is called the "outer sphere" or __________.

air pressure

The weight (force over a unit area) of the atmosphere, or ___ ________, pushes in on all of us (it also exists inside of us, pushing us outward and keeping us from being crushed by the air around us!)


This instrument measures air pressure.


The heterosphere and the homosphere are regions based on the atmosphere's (composition, temperature, or function?)


The outer atmosphere in terms of composition. This region is not uniform; its gases are not evenly mixed. Less than 0.001% of the atmosphere's mass is in this region.


The inner atmosphere in terms of composition. The blend of gases is nearly uniform in this region.

the ozone layer

This layer is one of the exceptions to the compositional uniformity of the homosphere (along with variations in water vapor, carbon dioxide, pollutants, and some chemicals).


Nitrogen is essential for life, but we breathe out all of the nitrogen we breathe in because we get our nitrogen through _____.

carbon dioxide

The percentage of this compound in the atmosphere has been increasing over the past 200 years as a result of human activities. It is important in maintaining global temperatures.


The thermosphere, mesosphere, stratosphere, and troposphere are regions based on the atmosphere's (composition, temperature, or function?)


A layer of the atmosphere (when classified by temperature) that roughly corresponds to the heterosphere (a compositional layer of the atmosphere).

kinetic energy

The energy of motion, the vibrational energy that we measure as temperature (helps explain the difference between temperature and heat).

sensible heat

Kinetic energy transmitted such that we can measure its temperature.


The highest atmopsheric temperature region of the three temperature regions that align with the homosphere.


The middle atmospheric temperature region of the three temperature regions that align with the homosphere. The location of the ozone layer.


The final layer encountered by incoming solar radiation. Home of the biosphere, that atmospheric layer that supports life, and the region of principal weather activity.


Which layer of the atmosphere contains about 90% of the total mass of the atmosphere, and the bulk of all water vapor, clouds, weather, air pollution, and life forms?

normal lapse rate

Temperatures decrease rapidly with increasing altitude at an average of 3.5 degrees per 1000 feet, a rate known as the ______ ______ ______.

environmental lapse rate

The actual lapse rate (rate of temperature decrease at increasing altitudes) at any particular time and place, which may deviate considerably because of local weather conditions.


the ionosphere and the ozonosphere (ozone layer) are regions based on the atmosphere's (composition, temperature, or function?)


The outer functional layer of the atmosphere. It absorbs cosmic rays, gamma rays, X-rays, and shorter wavelengths of ultraviolet radiation (it gets its name because it changes atoms to positively charged ions)


The auroral lights usually occur in this functional layer of the atmosphere.


A functional layer of the atmosphere: the part of the stratosphere that contains an increased level of ozone (remember that ozone is has 3 oxygen atoms).


true / false: ozone is highly reactive.


true / false: ozone is bad because it doesn't filter most harmful ultraviolet radiation.

temperature inversion

This occurs when the normal temperature decrease with altitude (normal lapse rate) begins to increase at some altitude.




In the U.S., approx. what percentage of anthropogenic air pollution is caused by automobiles?

photochemical smog

results from the interaction of sunlight and the combusiton products in automboile and truck exhaust. It is the major component of anthropogenic air pollution.


true / false: peroxyacetyl nitrates (PAN) produce no known health effect in humans, but are damaging to plants/crops/forests

industrial smog

The air pollution associated with coal-burning industries.

sulfate aersosols

Forms when sulfur dioxide forms sulfur trioxide and mixes with water or water vapor. Tiny particles.

particulate matter

A diverse mixture of fine particles, both solid and aerosol, that impact human health. Shortened term is "PM."

anthropogenic atmosphere

a tentative label for Earth's next (fifth) layer of atmosphere.

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