19
PEELING AN ONION
Chapter 2
When I was a child, I liked looking into
folks’ windows as we drove by in late
evenings. What hung on the walls inside
those houses? (We used to drive by one
home that had a huge star quilt sprawled
over one whole wall!) What colors glowed
from within the homes? (One of the grand,
formal houses in town had brilliant fire-
engine red walls!)
But there were some houses I never got to
see inside—their curtains were always
drawn disappointingly shut. I could only
imagine what surprises lay behind those
heavy blinds.
Our earth home has its own curtains. Earth is shrouded in curtains of air.
Before we can explore our home of Earth, we first need to examine these
curtains! These curtains of air are part of Earth, just like the skin of an onion
is part of the onion.
We have a big word for that curtain of air wrapping up the Earth. We call it
our “atmosphere.” Even though it is a big word, we can break it down into its
parts to figure it out. “Atmos” comes from the Greek language and means
vapor.” That is what our clouds and air are made of, water vapor. “Sphere
comes from the Latin language, meaning “ball.” So atmosphere is literally the
vapor wrapped around our ball. Just like an onion needs its skin to protect it,
God made our atmosphere to keep everything in our home alive!
What ingredients did God use when He made our atmosphere? Simply, God
organized the most perfect combination imaginable when He created the
atmosphere! The atmosphere surrounding our Earth is composed of gases. This
is not the kind of gas you fill the fuel tank of your car with, but these gases are
the precise gases God knew life on Earth needed to live. A gas is a substance
with no fixed volume or shape but expands to fill any volume of space
available. Our atmosphere is composed of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and trace
amounts of other gases.

20
When I was a baby, my mother swaddled me in a blanket. You, too, probably
have baby pictures of you sweetly tucked in a blanket. God wrapped up Earth
in these gases because they too act like a protective blanket around us. They
keep the heat the Earth needs inside the atmosphere. These gases also guard
the Earth from much of the sun’s dangerous rays called ultraviolet radiation.
Isn’t it amazing how God made our atmosphere perfect for life on Earth?
But there is more! God provided
exactly the right amount of each of
these gases in our atmosphere. What
do we need to breathe? That’s right—
oxygen. There is 21% oxygen in the
atmosphere. Why didn’t God include
more? Wouldn’t that have been a
good idea? NO! Oxygen easily reacts
with other gases. If there were even
an increase of only 1 percent more of
oxygen—to 22%—there would be a 70
percent increase in the likelihood of
forest fires flaming across the planet!
Wasn’t God a Master Builder when He
made our home Earth?
Have you ever taken the skin off an onion? In the midst of rubbing your eyes
(for onions can really sting your eyes!), what did you notice? Did you notice
that there were several layers of skins wrapped around your onion? The
atmosphere that wraps itself around our Earth is made up of more than just
one layer, just like that onion you peeled had more than one layer of skin. (But
thankfully, our atmosphere does not cause our eyes to tear up!)
Tell the folks at home all about it!
Tell me about this atmosphere that wraps itself around Earth.
(Memory Joggers: What does the word “atmosphere” mean?
What is our atmosphere made of? Why did God wrap Earth in these gases? What did
God create in the atmosphere that we need to breathe to live? Why did He not create
more oxygen?) Don’t you marvel at the wisdom of our Creator?
Can you see Earth’s curtain of atmosphere from this
space-side seat?
NASA

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Like that very first layer of onion, the one closest to the center, or core, of the
onion, let’s take a peek at the first layer of atmosphere, the layer we actually
walk around in every day here on Earth. The layer that first blankets Earth is
called the “troposphere.” Do you have any ideas why the first layer of vapor
around our earth is called troposphere? Let’s again be detectives and figure
out its meaning. “Tropos” stems from the Greek word meaning “turning” or
mixing.” Can you guess what is turning and mixing in the layer of air around
our sphere?
Yes, you can look up and actually see those vapors turning and mixing—the
clouds right above your head! It is in this layer of the atmosphere that all of
our storms and rain clouds and lightning occur. The troposphere certainly has
a lot of weather happening in it, for it extends from the floor of our home, the
Earth’s surface, to 5-9 miles (8-14 km.) high over our ball home!
If you could walk UPWARDS (which none of us can, of course, but let’s
pretend), it would take you several hours of steady walking to walk up through
the troposphere! But before you head out as a tourist in the Earth’s
atmosphere, remember your coat, hat and mittens, because the further you
walk through the troposphere, the colder the
temperatures! That’s because the surface of
our earth warms up the air. As you walk
away from earth, the air cools. For every
mile up walked through the troposphere, the
temperature falls by 18 degrees F! (6.5
degrees C per kilometer) At the coldest, it
would be -63 degrees F (-52 C). That is much
colder than the inside of your freezer! Better
pull your hat down! And you would be
walking up through billowing, swirling clouds
and zooming jets—so watch your step up
there!
As you keep walking through the troposphere layer of the atmosphere, you
might be gasping for breath! That’s because the higher you travel in the
Earth’s atmosphere, the less oxygen there is available for you to breathe. As
you reached the 5-mile mark in the troposphere (halfway through the
troposphere) you would have climbed as high as Mount Everest and there
would be 2/3 less oxygen for you to breathe than when you hiked out your
front door!
You also would be walking much slower. For every four steps you were
treading when you started out on this journey, you now are only making one
step! When you can’t breathe very well, you can’t walk very fast either! So, be
sure when you grab your hat and mittens, to haul some tanks full of oxygen
and an oxygen mask out the door with you as you begin your tour through the
atmosphere!
Mount Everest peaks halfway up into the
troposphere—and has two thirds less oxygen
than outside your front door!
NASA

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Are you ready to peel another layer of the atmosphere off of Earth, just like
peeling a layer of skin off an onion? If you were still feeling energetic and up to
more walking, you would now walk into the next layer of our earth’s
atmosphere called the “stratosphere.” What do you think stratosphere
means? Remember that atmosphere means vapor around our ball, and
troposphere means the turning (of vapor) around our ball. Stratosphere means
a spreading out (stratus means spreading out in Latin) around our ball.
You would be getting pretty far away from your front door by now! The
stratosphere is the second layer wrapped around earth and it extends 30 miles
(50 km) above the ground of our home, Earth. But the further you kept on
walking, you might even take off your hat and mittens! (It is not because you
have worked yourself into a sweat, either!) The temperature would have risen
from –63 F (-52C) in the troposphere to a balmy, much warmer 27F (-3C) up
here in the stratosphere!
Hey, wait a minute! Wasn’t it that the further away you got from earth, the
colder the air became? So why are you getting warmer up here in the
stratosphere, if you are further away from Earth?
The stratosphere has another layer spread out within it (remember stratus
means spread out?) called an ozone layer. Ozone comes from the Greek word
ozein” which means “to smell.” If you took a deep whiff up here in the ozone
layer, you’d notice a very unusual odor. It is this layer of ozone that causes the
temperature to become warmer in the stratosphere.
Tell the folks at home all about it!
What can you tell us about the troposphere and the stratosphere?
(Memory Joggers: What is the layer of atmosphere called that
we live and walk around in everyday on Earth? What does
tropos” mean? What occurs in the troposphere? What happens to the temperature as
you travel up through the troposphere? What does stratosphere mean? Do you remember
how far from Earth the stratosphere extends? And what is the temperature like in the
stratosphere? What does the word “ozone” mean?) Let’s discover more now about
ozone!
Have you ever used a net to catch fish? You may have scooped up some little
minnows and a tadpole or two. But still on the surface of the water may be
some water striders or smaller minnows that your net didn’t catch.

23
The ozone layer up in the stratosphere is much like a big net, catching some
ultraviolet rays from the sun but still allowing some ultraviolet rays to reach
earth. This layer of ozone, absorbing a great deal of the ultraviolet rays from
the sun, dramatically heats up the stratosphere and that is why you are much
warmer here than you were back in the troposphere!
Why do some ultraviolet rays from the sun need to be trapped in the intricate
net of the ozone layer while other rays reach earth? Without the filtering effect
of the ozone layer, the sun's full radiation would reach earth and harm plants,
animals, and people. Have you ever had a nasty sunburn after a day of making
sand castles at the beach? Then you have experienced the harmful, painful
effect of the sun’s radiation.
Some ultraviolet radiation, however, still does need to
reach our Earth home. First, some of those rays are
needed to reach our home to keep Earth’s temperature
warm enough for us—and plants and animals.
Secondly, some of those ultraviolet rays from the sun
are needed to encourage the working of vitamin D in
our bodies. Vitamin D helps turn the calcium in our
bodies into hard bones. Otherwise, our bones would
break much easier! (If you have ever had your arm or
leg in a cast, you certainly can appreciate the
importance of strong bones—and the sun’s rays!) God
perfectly balanced how much ultraviolet radiation from
the sun should reach earth when He designed the
ozone layer up in the stratosphere!
You are the same kid, wherever you are. But if we
caught you with your hand stuck in the cookie jar, we might say, “Bad!” And if
we later found you embracing your crying baby brother, we might say “Good!”
Whether we said bad or good would depend on where we found you! And the
same is true of ozone!
No matter where one finds ozone, its
composition, what it is made of, remains
the same. But, depending where ozone is
found, ozone is either “bad ozone” or “good
ozone.” Ozone is “good ozone” if one finds
it where God created ozone to be—in the
stratosphere. Ozone is “good” here
because high up in the stratosphere it
protects us and all of Earth from harmful
ultraviolet radiation from the sun. But
ozone that is found lower, down here in
the troposphere where we walk around, is
“bad ozone.” Just like God did not create
Can you see the bad ozone
hovering over our earthly
home?
NASA
What are these factories spewing?
National Parks Service

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you to be found with your hand stealing out of the cookie jar, God also did not
create ozone to be found down here in the troposphere! Instead, it is people on
Earth who have created the “bad ozone” of the troposphere. All of us on Earth
create “bad ozone” when we drive cars and build large factories that spew
fumes and exhaust out into our troposphere. Then the powerful ozone reaction
that is meant to happen way up in the stratosphere against dangerous
ultraviolet rays happens down here in the troposphere on us! That bad ozone
reacts powerfully on you and me, making us sick to our stomach, causing us to
cough or making it hard for us to breathe (which is an ailment called asthma).
All of which God never intended for ozone to do. So think of ozone this way:
Good up high, bad nearby.
Now that we have examined the good ozone of the stratosphere, let’s take a
look around the rest of the stratosphere. Since the warmer air lies above the
nippier air in the stratosphere, the air doesn’t turn around much in the
stratosphere like it did back in the troposphere. Can you guess what you might
see as a tourist of the stratosphere? You might notice debris floating around
from volcanoes that exploded down on Earth years and years ago—when you
were just a really little kid!
If we now stomp right out of the stratosphere, we will find ourselves in the
mesosphere. It is time to pull down that knitted hat of yours and wrap
yourself in a scarf because it is going to get REALLY COLD! The mesosphere,
which begins just above the stratosphere and extends to 53 miles (85 km) high,
has temperatures that again fall as low as –135 F (-93 C)! That is nearly
TWICE as cold as the troposphere—and MUCH colder than your freezer!
Don’t pull your scarf too high over your
nose! Firstly, there is not enough oxygen to
breathe up here in the mesosphere so you’ll
definitely be wearing your oxygen mask.
Secondly, you don’t want to miss anything
up here in the mesosphere. Do you know
what the mesosphere’s main attraction is?
Shooting stars! Meteors, pebble-size
fragments floating around in space, glow
with the heat of friction as they collide with
gases in the mesosphere. Whizzing by at
30 miles (48 km) per second towards Earth,
these “falling stars” usually burn up before
they reach our Earth home way below. This
is a good thing because no one wants to
get hit by meteors that come flying Earth’s
way! God’s atmosphere again protects us
in marvelous ways. (But you don’t have to
gallivant through the mesosphere to catch
This photograph captures the Alpha-Monocerotid
meteor outburst in 1995. Aren’t you grateful that
God created Earth with an atmosphere to protect
us from these rock debris?
NASA

25
a glimpse of these “meteor showers.” At certain times of the year, especially in
August and December, you can spot cascades of gleaming meteors right in
your own backyard on earth—which would be a lot warmer than up here in the
mesosphere!)
Well, congratulations! You’ve just walked through the troposphere, the
stratosphere and the mesosphere, all of which is called “Lower Atmosphere”!
Wasn’t it an “out-of-this-world” adventure?! Quite the traveler, you are! Give
yourself a pat on the back! And rest up for our next expedition when we head
up through the Upper Atmosphere!
Tell the folks at home all about it!
Tell me more about where we have explored today. (Memory Joggers:
Why did God create an ozone layer in the stratosphere? Why does some
ultraviolet radiation need to reach Earth? What can you tell us about
good ozone and bad ozone? What else might you discover floating in the stratosphere? What
layer of the atmosphere lies above the stratosphere? What can you share about the mesosphere?)
POSTCARD HOME
Have you ever visited somewhere and sent a
postcard home to a friend? What did you write
in your letter home? World travelers often send
home postcards telling of the grand sites they’ve
seen and their adventures in new places!
Why don’t you draw a picture of your
atmosphere adventure on the front of a piece of postcard size piece of paper. Make sure
you draw in all the layers you’ve toured in the atmosphere, so your friend knows where
you’ve been! Then on the back of your postcard, why not write down some of the
highlights from each layer in the Lower Atmosphere—what did you see or experience in
the troposphere, the stratosphere and the mesosphere?
Punch a hole in the top corner of your card and place it on a ring. Soon you’ll have more
postcards to add on that ring of all of your travels! Oh, the places you’ll go! (Postcard
templates are available on the CD-ROM in the back of your book)

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Reaching Out
to His World
Have you ever lived in a home that wasn’t yours but you
rented from the owner? Perhaps you live in an apartment or home where you pay
monthly to the owner for the freedom to live there. Did you know that all of us live on
our home of Earth and we don’t own it? And we don’t even have to pay rent!
God made our Earthly home in glorious and wise waysand it is His! The Bible says:
“The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains” (Ps. 24:1).
Those of us living on Earth
need to remember that the Earth is not actually ours. It belongs to Him.
And we need to be wise caretakers and stewards of this home He has provided for us
to live in. God has given us the privilege of living here“[T]he earth He has given to
the sons of men” (Ps. 115:16). How we need to show Him our gratitude for the
magnificent gift of Earth that He has given for our use!
So what can you do to reach out and take care of the Earth that belongs to God and
He has allowed us to live in?
We can make efforts not to make “bad ozone” because
bad ozone hurts people, crops and every thing alive in
God’s world. (Did you know that bad ozone can damage
leaves so that the leaf dies or becomes spotted? Bad
ozone kills the plants God has given us on Earth!)
Perhaps you can decide to do one of the following to take
care of the Earth we live in:
~Burn calories and energy—not fuel. Walk whenever
you can instead of driving. Every vehicle driving down
all the roads all over our Earth emits gases that react
with sunlight to create “bad ozone.” So every time you decide not to drive somewhere,
you make less bad ozone….and take good care of God’s Earth.
~ Take the bus whenever you can or carpool with another family.
~Use water based paints since oil-based paints emit bad ozone-forming pollutants.
As each one has received a special gift [like the privilege of living on this home,
our Earth], employ it in serving one another as good stewards…” (I Pet. 4:10-11).
So let’s not make “bad ozone” nearby but preserve the “good ozone” up high!
Ride a bike instead of driving!

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Further Explorations
Atmosphere: sea of air by Roy A. Gallant
What causes violent storms, awe-inspiring rainbows, sunsets, and the sky's deep blue color?
This book offers answers to such queries! With nearly conversational prose, Gallant’s facts are
thorough while the ideas are clearly explained for curious explorers.
The sky's the limit: all about the atmosphere by Mark Rauzon
Check out this volume for an introduction of the atmosphere. Learn the purpose of each layer
of the atmosphere and the relation between air, the sky, and weather.
Earth's atmosphere [videorecording] / a production of Schlessinger Media
Review your knowledge of space with aspiring astronauts, Malcolm and Stanley. Curious
explorers will discover more about the layers of our atmosphere. Why is each layer important to
the survival of life on our planet? How is the atmosphere responsible for weather? What is a
barometer and how would you build one? This episode explores the answers to these questions!
How did we find out about the atmosphere? by Isaac Asimov
(Gr. 5-9)
Older students will find Asimov's explanation of the atmosphere most beneficial.
After surveying early experiments which proved air’s existence, Asimov turns to describing
experiments which proved the existence of atoms, the density of air and the discovery of
oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen and gases. The volume concludes with an explanation the
atmospheres of seven of the planets in our solar system.
The Sky Jumps into your Shoes at Night by Jasper Tomkins
(Gr. 1-3) What is the sky? Where is air? A whimsical perspective on the adventures of the sky,
this fun text and watercolour illustrations foster an appreciation for our atmosphere and earth.

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Too-Fun-to-Resist Excursion!
OZONE ALERT!
Recall how God created the stratosphere to include a layer of “good ozone” that protects all of
us on Earth from dangerous ultraviolet radiation from the sun. But we on Earth create “bad
ozone” here in the troposphere when we engage in activities such as driving cars and puffing
fumes out of factories. Can you see this “bad ozone”? You may not be able to see the “bad
ozone” with your eyes, but we can see the effects of this bad ozone on certain items such as a
rubber band.
Materials Needed:
~ 3 glass jars
~ 3 medium size rubber bands
~ magnifying glass
~ Pen
Ready To Go? Let’s Head Out!
~ Place a rubber band around the center of each glass jar. (The rubber band should not stretch
too much. The results of this activity will be altered if the rubber band is stretched too greatly.)
~ Write the date and location on a piece of paper and place it in your jar.
~ Examine a section of your rubber band with a magnifying glass. Draw what you observe.
Mark this section with a pen.
~ Place one jar outside in the shade, away from the direct sunlight. Place one jar on the
kitchen counter. And, if at all possible, place one jar near a copy machine. (If you don’t have a
copy machine, perhaps you can receive permission to place your jar near a copy machine at
the library or church office?) (Most copy machines use an electrostatic charging of a cylinder in
the copying process. The accompanying ionization creates ozone—so placing your jar with the
rubber band near a copy machine will make for a more interesting experiment.)
~ Every day for a week, examine your rubber bands with your magnifying glass. Write down
your observations and sketch what you see happening. Can you see the effects of “bad ozone”?
Be a detective and hunt down the answers to these queries!
~ Is your rubber band cracking? Or
pitting?
~ At which location did your rubber band
show the greatest change?
~ And at which location did your rubber
change the least?
~ On which day did you see the first
noticeable changes?
~ Did all the rubber bands change on the
same day?
~ What do you think caused the changes of
the rubber bands? (Ozone will deteriorate
the rubber bands at a rate dependent upon
the ozone levels in the surrounding air.)

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Too-Fun-to-Resist Excursion!
HAVE A SPECTACULAR SHOWER!
Here is a shower where you will need no shampoo or a towel! Nor will you need to trek
up through the atmosphere until you reach the mesosphere.
Instead of freezing way up there in the mesosphere, why not head outside for the best
shower of alla shower of meteors!
Late autumn, especially mid-October to mid-December, is the prime season of meteor
showers, when God dazzles with brilliant flashes of streaking light in the night sky.
And you won’t want to miss it!
Ready To Go? Let’s Head Out!
The only materials you will need for this too-fun-to-resist activity is perhaps a warm
cup of hot chocolate to sip while standing out there under the night sky, and a blanket
to snuggle in! (And, of course, a fellow geographer to share the wonder with!)
Dates of meteor showers are listed at the International Meteor Organization Website:
http://www.imo.net/calendar
Write the appropriate dates on your calendar so you won’t forget!
Set your alarm clock for the hushed hours of dark before sunrise. You can observe
many more meteors near dawn than after dusk.
If you want the best seat to view a meteor shower, find the darkest location possible.
Any man-made lights should be avoided if you are seeking a great showing of God’s
lights.
As all world-travelers do, take along your camera to capture God’s wonders!
And remember: By sky gazing at meteor showers, you are actually seeing God’s
marvels up in the mesospherewithout even leaving your own backyard!

30
And as I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a
great cloud with fire flashing continually and a bright light around it,
and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire.”
(Ezekiel 1:4)