Stuck with this stupid question.?

The area of the Earth’s surface is approximately 516 X 106 km2. What is the weight of the entire atmosphere in tonnes? Express your answer using scientific notation, in units of 1012 tonnes.


1 Answer

  • hfshaw
    Lv 7
    5 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    The question asks for the "weight" of the atmosphere, but then asks for the answer in terms of tonnes, which is a unit of mass, not weight. Weight is the force on something due to gravity. Tell your teacher (s)he writes sloppy questions.

    You are making this too hard. The surface atmospheric pressure is 14.7 pounds per square inch or 1.01*10^5 newtons per square meter. Multiply either of these by the surface area (using the appropriate units for the area) and you get the total weight of the atmosphere. For instance, there are 1.55*10^9 in² per km², so 14.7 lbs/in² = 2.28*10^9 lbs/km². Multiply this by the surface area pf 516*10^6 km² and you get 1.19*10^19 lbs.

    If we assume that the gravitational acceleration (g) is constant over the bulk of the mass of the Earth's atmosphere, we can calculate the mass of the atmosphere that would have this weight, i.e., 1 lb-force = 1 lb-mass = 0.454 kg. The mass of the atmosphere is then 5.33*10^18 kg.

    One tonne = 10^3 kg, and the question asks for the answer in units of 10^12 tonnes = 10^15 kg. The mass of the atmosphere is therefore 5.33*10^3 tonnes

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