The Atmosphere

Making use of a video from the Met Office and a linked information page from the Royal Meteorological Society, students can be guided to research and present on atmospheric structure, then review with consolidation questions.

~ 1 hour



  • Indoors

Curriculum links

  • Chemistry
  • Physics

Step by step

Begin by showing students this 2 minute video from the Met Office:

Preview image for the video "What are the layers of the atmosphere?".

Provide this link to the Royal Meteorological Society's information page on the Earth's atmosphere as a starting point for research, and assign topics to groups.

Topics could be, for example, layers of the atmosphere, or topics listed on the starter information page:

  • Origin of the atmosphere
  • The vertical structure of the atmosphere
  • Unequal heating of the Earth’s surface
  • Transfer of energy
  • Atmospheric cells

Learners can present to peers, encourage them to consider how they communicate complex information through summaries. To conclude, select from this set of summary questions (also included on the information page) depending on your student's areas of interest or uncertainty.


  • Define the term ‘atmosphere’.
  • Explain how photosynthesis allowed the initial release of oxygen, allowing the Earth’s atmosphere to form.
  • What is ozone? What important role does it perform?
  • Which of the following are the two major gases in the Earth’s atmosphere; nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, methane or carbon dioxide?
  • Arrange the following atmospheric layers into the correct order, starting with the layer, nearest the Earth’s surface; mesosphere, stratosphere, troposphere, thermosphere.
  • What is meant by the term ‘adiabatic cooling’?
  • How high is the troposphere over the equator; 4, 8, 16 or 32 km?
  • Do temperatures increase, or decrease with increasing altitude, in the stratosphere?
  • How high is the troposphere over the poles; 4, 8, 16 or 32 km?
  • Explain the differences between nacreous and noctilucent clouds.
  • Describe how the Earth’s tilt and rotational axis causes differences in the amount of heat received at the Earth’s surface.
  • What is albedo? 
  • How does it vary with different types of surface?
  • What are trade winds?
  • Describe the factors which cause A) high pressure; B) low pressure