ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE

The atmosphere is the key to life on Earth. This thin layer is what protects us from the hostile environment of space. Here you can learn all about the atmospheric sciences.
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How Acid Rain Works

Acid rain is caused by emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from power plants, cars and factories. Find out how acid rain is produced, how it affects natural and man-made objects and how governments aim to reduce it.

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  • What causes the seasons?

    What causes the seasons?

    What causes the seasons? Why are the seasons reversed in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres? And if the Earth moves in an elliptical orbit around the Sun, why don't we have two summers and two winters every year? See more »

  • What causes the smell after rain?

    What causes the smell after rain?

    Especially in the spring and summer, there's often a strong, funny smell right after it rains. What's behind "rain smell"? See more »

  • What does it mean when a barometer is rising or falling?

    What does it mean when a barometer is rising or falling?

    Barometers are used to predict the weather. What exactly does it mean when the weatherman says the barometer is rising or falling? See more »

  • What is St. Elmo's Fire?

    What is St. Elmo's Fire?

    Sometimes a lightning storm heralds sightings of St. Elmo's Fire. What causes the mysterious glow sailors interpreted as a sign of salvation? See more »

  • What is the heat index that the weatherperson talks about during the summer?

    What is the heat index that the weatherperson talks about during the summer?

    What is the "heat index" that the weatherperson talks about during the summer? Also, why is the air comfortable at only 80 degrees F even though body temperature is 98 degrees F? See more »

  • What is the rarest weather phenomenon?

    What is the rarest weather phenomenon?

    What is the strangest weather-related thing that could happen? Raining frogs? A triple rainbow? Or something else? See more »

  • What is the UV index and how is it calculated?

    What is the UV index and how is it calculated?

    Every night on the news, the weatherperson reports the UV index. What is the UV index and how is it calculated? See more »

  • What’s a polar vortex?

    What’s a polar vortex?

    During the unusually cold winter of 2014, the term "polar vortex" got quite a workout, causing many to wonder if it was a new weather phenomenon. Actually, the polar vortex is always with us – just usually with a lower profile. But will that change? See more »

  • Why are the auroras seasonal?

    Why are the auroras seasonal?

    If you've ever spied a night sky splashed with vivid billows of color, either you have access to interesting drugs or you've seen an aurora firsthand. If it's the latter, your sky-gazing probably took place during spring or autumn. How come? See more »

  • Why can't scientists accurately predict the weather?

    Why can't scientists accurately predict the weather?

    We can put a person on the moon. We can zip particles around accelerators at insanely high speeds. But nope, we cannot tell you for sure whether you'll need that animal print umbrella tomorrow. Why not? See more »

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