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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When discussing the weather, humidity is a constant topic of conversation and consternation, especially during those muggy summer months. When people say, "At least it's a dry heat," that's just another way of saying, "Phew! At least it's not humid!"

By Mack Hayden

When challenged to name the hottest place on Earth, sprawling desert environments like Death Valley or the African Sahara probably spring to mind. However, extreme heat nearly matching those examples can occur on five continents, and some of these hottest places are even densely populated by humans.

By Talon Homer

Death Valley is one of the hottest places on Earth. With a record high of 134 degrees Fahrenheit (56.7 degrees Celsius), the California national park is sweltering, but it is not even one of the top 10 hottest states in the U.S.

By Yara Simón


Did you know that some places on Earth can get so hot that local wildlife has evolved specifically to survive the extreme conditions? In these regions, the heat isn't just a summer wave; it's a constant presence.

By Desiree Bowie

Ice cubes usually look cloudy and opaque in the middle, despite the fact that water is clear. What's the deal?

By Mark Mancini

More than two centuries ago, the biggest volcanic explosion in human history occurred. And it had far-reaching effects.

By Kate Kershner

Nothing ruins a good hair day like humidity, especially if your hair is dry and overprocessed. What's the science behind the frizz?

By Laurie L. Dove


Auroras themselves aren't rare, but spotting one can be tricky: You need a clear, dark sky within one of the auroral zones. What are 10 spots that up the odds a bit?

By Julia Layton

When climate variations mix with unsustainable agriculture and urbanization, vast swaths of once-fertile lands transform into deserts. Is the U.S. in danger of becoming a dried-up wasteland?

By Maria Trimarchi

You may have noticed signs on the highway that warn "Bridge Ices Before Road." What causes this to happen?

By Kathryn Whitbourne

Snow is nothing more than frozen water, and water is clear, not white. But snow is bright white. How?

By Allison Loudermilk


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

They're an odd enough sight in the sky to make you do a double take. Ready for the "super cool" explanation behind hole-punch clouds?

By Allison Troutner

Iceland? The North Pole? Antarctica? There are a lot of super cold places on this planet, but which one can claim bragging rights as the coldest place on Earth?

By Mark Mancini

We hear about humidity in just about every weather report on the nightly news. There are several different ways meteorologists measure humidity, but relative humidity is the most common measurement. What is relative humidity, though?

By Nathan Chandler


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

Rock salt is the go-to for melting ice on the roadways. But why?

By Contributors

You might think of weather as something that happens around your life. It could prevent you from taking a bike ride or inspire you grab an umbrella on your way out. But there's more to weather than its ability to thwart the best-laid plans.

By Robert Lamb

Ball lightning can float through the air, pass through walls and even kill you. What could it be, and why are scientists finally accepting this strange meteorological phenomenon?

By Maria Trimarchi & Austin Henderson


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

By Julia Layton

We've all probably looked up and wondered why the sky is blue instead of, say, brown. The sky is blue because of the way Earth's atmosphere scatters light from the sun.

By Nicholas Gerbis

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?

By Sascha Bos


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, so shouldn't it be hotter at the top of a mountain?

By Contributors

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?