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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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

Very specific atmospheric conditions and just the right perspective are necessary to see the phenomenon.

By Patrick J. Kiger


Smartphone cameras enable us to take striking pictures of strange atmospheric phenomena—though we don’t always know what we’re seeing.

By Patrick J. Kiger

Red snow? Yes. It totally exists. And while it might look cool, it's not exactly what you want to see from Mother Nature.

By Mark Mancini

Not to be confused with sleet, graupel is actually an interesting mix of snow and ice. But it's not hail. Graupel, get to know it.

By Laurie L. Dove

California has experienced unprecedented rain lately, but the state is still in a drought. So why can't the rain falling now be saved for later?

By Andrew Fisher


Bluebirds symbolize optimism, happiness and hope for the future. For skiers, a "bluebird day" bodes well for a great day on the slopes, but hunters and anglers may as well stay home.

By Thomas Harlander

A geomagnetic storm could cause a spectacular aurora borealis Aug. 18 and 19 over parts of the continental United States, as far south as Illinois.

By Sarah Gleim