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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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?

Why is the sky blue?

Chances are you could formulate a reasonably well-informed guess. Why not read the article and get the definitive answer?

How Weather Works

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.

Will the U.S. be a desert in 50 years?

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?

Does ball lightning really exist?

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?

How Clouds Work

Did bunnies just attack that sailboat, or was it a narwhal playing with a school of fish? Are you going crazy, or are you just watching the clouds?

How Auroras Work

Auroras are stunning natural light shows that are visible only in certain parts of the world at certain times of the year. Where can you go to see one?

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.

Why does the sky get dark at night?

Why does the sky get dark at night? Don't tell me it's just because the Earth rotates and the sun sets -- what I mean is, with all of its stars and other luminous bodies, why isn't the universe infinitely bright?

What Is Relative Humidity and How Does it Affect How I Feel Outside?

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?

Why do bridges ice before the rest of the highway?

I've noticed signs on the highway that warn "Bridge Ices Before Road." What causes bridges to ice before the rest of the highway?

Why is snow white?

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

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"?

How does the aurora borealis (the Northern Lights) work?

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?

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?

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?

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?

Why Is It Colder at the Top of a Mountain Than It Is at Sea Level?

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?

If the temperature is 30 degrees F, why do we sometimes get snow and other times get freezing rain?

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?

What causes a rainbow?

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.

How does the windchill factor work?

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

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?


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