CHAPTER 7: Introduction to the Atmosphere

(c). Physical Behavior of the Atmosphere and the Gas Laws

In the previous topic, we learned the atmosphere is composed of a mixture of many different gases. This mixture behaves in many ways as if it were a single gas. As a result of this phenomenon, the following generalizations describe important relationships between temperature, pressure, density and volume, that relate to the Earth's atmosphere.

(1) When temperature is held constant, the density of a gas is proportional to pressure, and volume is inversely proportional to pressure. Accordingly, an increase in pressure will cause an increase in density of the gas and a decrease in its volume.
(2) If volume is kept constant, the pressure of a unit mass of gas is proportional to temperature. If temperature increase so will pressure, assuming no change in the volume of the gas.
(3) Holding pressure constant, causes the temperature of a gas to be proportional to volume, and inversely proportional to density. Thus, increasing temperature of a unit mass of gas causes its volume to expand and its density to decrease as long as there is no change in pressure.

These relationships can also be described mathematically by the Ideal Gas Law. Two equations that are commonly used to describe this law are:

Pressure x Volume = Constant x Temperature


Pressure = Density x Constant x Temperature



Study Guide


Additional Readings

Internet Weblinks
Citation: Pidwirny, M. (2006). "Physical Behavior of the Atmosphere and the Gas Laws". Fundamentals of Physical Geography, 2nd Edition. Date Viewed.


Created by Dr. Michael Pidwirny & Scott Jones University of British Columbia Okanagan

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05/07/2009 10:08