Introduction: Earth - The Power of the Planet (02:15)
Iain Stewart will examine the four powerful forces that have created the world. Humans are dependent on air. Earth would be uninhabitable without the atmosphere. (Credits)
Touring the Atmosphere (07:18)
Dave Stock flies an English Electric Lightning. Stewart wears a mask because there is little oxygen 1.5 miles above the ground. They travel through the troposphere and stratosphere.
Atmospheric Layers (05:29)
Joe Kittinger uses a giant helium balloon to reach high into the stratosphere and jumps; he does not feel air until entering the troposphere. The mesosphere protects the Earth from meteors. In the thermosphere, Earth's magnetic field diverts solar winds, creating auroras.
Air has turbulence and creates eddy currents around mountain tops. When a band of moist sea air approaches the coastline, a thick cloud forms, driving inland. The air inside an individual's body helps balance the air pressure.
Surfing the Air (05:27)
Troy Hartman describes feeling air pressure when he skydives. The wind cuts through rock at The Wave in Arizona. Yardangs form when winds relentlessly blow from one direction.
Jet Stream (03:55)
Wind carries sand and dust from the Sahara Desert across the Atlantic Ocean to the Amazon Forest, delivering essential nutrients. Heat moving in the atmosphere cause weather events. At the De la Pachamama festival in Argentina, citizens ask for a good harvest.
Earth's Stormiest Place (05:36)
Scientists count the number of lightning strikes per year. A front from the Amazon and one from the South Pole collide at the Andes Mountain range. Thunder erupts due to electrically charged ice crystals; sprites reach almost 50 miles into the mesosphere.
Origin of the Atmosphere (06:25)
Volcanoes spew out gasses, creating an atmosphere of carbon dioxide, methane, and steam laced with hydrogen sulfide. Stromatolites, comprised of cyanobacteria, break down water molecules to release oxygen.
Oxygen Dissemination (02:52)
Stromatolites fill the sea with oxygen. Iron underneath the sea bonds with oxygen creating rust. When the iron runs out, the molecule fills the atmosphere.
Ozone Layer (04:54)
This layer shields the planet from ultraviolet light and allows complex life to form, including humans. Stewart describes how Spanish women who came to the Andes mountains could not successfully give birth due to the altitude.
Other Gasses in the Atmosphere (09:39)
Volcanoes release carbon dioxide into the air, warming the planet. Burning fossil fuels causes climate change. Methane is frozen in the permafrost in Siberia. Katey Walter believes she has evidence that the lakes are melting.
Climate Change (02:09)
Humans are threatening the delicate balance between life and the atmosphere. In the next episode, Stewart will explore the dynamic and destructive power of ice.
Credits: Earth - the Power of the Planet: Atmosphere (00:31)
Credits: Earth - the Power of the Planet: Atmosphere
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