The Atmosphere: Our Bubble of Protection

Weather Watch with Ed Buckner

When I talk to young school children on my “WeatherEDucation” tours, I always start by teaching them about the atmosphere. The lowest part of the atmosphere is called the troposphere. This is where all weather happens, and is the air around us. The Earth’s atmosphere is like a protective blanket. It protects us from large amounts of ultraviolet radiation from the sun, helps keep the Earth’s surface warm via the greenhouse effect, and reduces temperature extremes between day and night. 

While we can’t always control the air around us, we can observe it by measuring its temperature, air pressure, humidity, wind direction and wind speed. These data, collected by weather balloons, satellites and aircraft, go into a supercomputer that puts out a forecast for hours and days into the future.

Our atmosphere is fragile. The Earth’s surface temperatures are rising rapidly. Over the past 100 years, our average temperature has warmed almost 2 degrees Fahrenheit, which is the largest increase in the shortest amount of time that scientists know about. The industrial revolution of the past 120 years may be to blame for our climate change. 

The burning of fossil fuels, such as natural gas, coal and oil has added large amounts of carbon dioxide to our atmosphere, causing increasing temperatures and ozone layer depletion. Our quilt of protection is not as strong as it once was, and abnormal weather patterns seem to dominate the headlines more frequently. For instance, in late June, Siberia, one of the coldest places on Earth, hit a recording breaking 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I would say that shatters our paradigm of “normal.”

The evolution of mankind revolves around what we do and the consequences of our choices and the effects of an imperfect world. This year of 2020 has been, for most of us, a game changer. The global pandemic has changed the things we do and are not allowed to do, forcing us to rethink what we all knew as normal. 

As a result, we now must control our own 6 feet of atmosphere, or “air around us.” Public gatherings do not have the same “atmosphere” as they once did. Everything is different now. Restaurants, banking, medical procedures and especially sporting events are just a few of changes the COVID-19 pandemic has altered, forcing us into change.

Whatever the new normal means to you, I think we should make the best of it. We still cheer, we still root, we still live and try to create fun memories and special times with those we love. Even though the Panther maroon and the Hornet blue will be spread across the stands six feet apart, we still will support our teams, community, family and friends. 

It’s up to all of us to do our part to be safe and help protect each other while we go through these strange times. The decision is ours to make. Maybe we can all learn that our atmosphere—both as it pertains to weather, and to the “air around us”—is exactly what we make of it.