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.


Why is snow white? It's frozen water, and water isn't white, it's clear.

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

How does the aurora borealis (the Northern Lights) work? What causes it? Why can you only see it in the North? Are the myths about it producing sound true?

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

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?

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?

Why is it colder at the top of a mountain than it is at sea level? Heat rises, and the top of a mountain is closer to the sun -- shouldn't it be hotter at the top of a mountain?

Precipitation can vary from rain to snow when the temperature is below freezing. Why does precipitation not always fall as snow when it's below freezing?

We can usually see rainbows right after a rainstorm on a warm Spring day. These giant colorful arcs stand out against the dark rain clouds. Have you ever wondered what causes this phenomena? Find out how rainbows are created in this article from HowStuffWorks.

What is "wind chill"? Does it have any effect on inanimate objects?

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