# Popular estimate of the Earth's atmosphere possibly wrong?

• Dreksler
In summary, the number frequently mentioned for the total mass of the Earth's atmosphere is 5.15 x 10^18 kg, which is calculated by multiplying the Earth's surface area of 510,000,000,000,000 square meters by the pressure of 10,000 kg-force per square meter. This is different from the number of 5.1 x 10^15 kg, which is obtained by multiplying the Earth's surface area with the pressure of 100,000 pascals per square meter. The latter number is the one mentioned on the Wikipedia page, causing confusion for the speaker.
Dreksler
TL;DR Summary
My calculation says 5.1 quadrillion kg yet the frequently mentioned one says 5.1 quintillion kg.
So I just realized that on the internet the number that frequently pops up with regards to the total mass of the Earth's atmosphere is 5,100,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms. For example, the number is mentioned two times on the Wikipedia page for the Earth's atmosphere, there are more examples. Yet per square meter of surface, there is 100,000 pascals of pressure, which is 10,000 kilograms-force per meter square. The Earth's surface area is 510,000,000,000 meters. Multiplying 510,000,000,000 meters with 10,000 kilograms gets you the number of 5,100,000,000,000,000 kilograms and not the number of 5,100,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms, which is the number frequently mentioned. Am I missing something here?

fresh_42 said:
I know, that is what I am questioning.

You seem to assume ##10,000 \text{ kg}## per square meter in accordance with the sources I saw. Then
\begin{align*}
4\pi \left(\dfrac{12,730,000\text{ m}}{2}\right)^2\cdot 10,000\text{ kg}\,\text{m}^{-2}=5,091,042,001,329,214,046.932\ldots \text{ kg}=5.1\cdot 10^{18}\text{ kg}
\end{align*}

Dreksler
fresh_42 said:
You seem to assume ##10,000 \text{ kg}## per square meter in accordance with the sources I saw. Then
\begin{align*}
4\pi \left(\dfrac{12,730,000\text{ m}}{2}\right)^2\cdot 10,000\text{ kg}\,\text{m}^{-2}=5,091,042,001,329,214,046.932\ldots \text{ kg}=5.1\cdot 10^{18}\text{ kg}
\end{align*}
Multiplying 510,000,000,000 with 10,000 doesn't get you to the power of 15?

Dreksler said:
Multiplying 510,000,000,000 with 10,000 doesn't get you to the power of 15?
Sure, but I used an average radius for the Earth and got 510,000,000,000,000 square meters.

Dreksler
fresh_42 said:
Sure, but I used an average radius for the Earth and got 510,000,000,000,000 square meters.
Okay, I get where I made the mistake now.

berkeman

## 1. What is the current popular estimate of the Earth's atmosphere?

The current popular estimate of the Earth's atmosphere is that it is composed of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and trace amounts of other gases such as carbon dioxide, water vapor, and argon.

## 2. How is this estimate determined?

This estimate is determined through various methods such as analyzing air samples, satellite data, and atmospheric models.

## 3. Why do some scientists believe this estimate may be wrong?

Some scientists believe this estimate may be wrong because it does not take into account the changing composition of the atmosphere due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels and deforestation.

## 4. What evidence supports the idea that the popular estimate of the Earth's atmosphere is wrong?

Evidence such as rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as well as changes in the Earth's climate, support the idea that the popular estimate of the Earth's atmosphere is wrong.

## 5. What are the potential implications if the popular estimate of the Earth's atmosphere is wrong?

If the popular estimate of the Earth's atmosphere is wrong, it could have significant implications for our understanding of climate change and the impact of human activities on the environment. It could also affect the accuracy of future predictions and models related to climate and weather patterns.

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