The importance of the atmosphere in the life of our planet cannot be overestimated. The earth is surrounded on all sides by air, with the surface like the floor of an enormous ocean of gas.
The atmosphere is like a mantle preserving the heat that comes from the sun. It is like the glass of a hot-house, for it lets in the solar rays but prevents the heat from dissipating into space. That is why the alternation of day and night on our planet does not give rise to sharp contrasts of heat and cold. The atmosphere is the planet’s invisible shield. It protects all living beings on earth from the scorching rays of the sun. It gives birth to the clouds, to the winds, and to the rains. It scatters the sunshine and makes gradual the change from light to darkness; it brings light to hidden parts of the globe; and it is a medium for the propagation of sound. Through the air, liners fly to all parts of the world. And through the air, man’s first interplanetary ships will hurtle.
This is why we must study the atmosphere, its composition, its properties, and its structure. The history of atmospheric studies is the story of how man learned about the clouds and beyond, of how he made light, sound, and radio serve as his scouts into this ocean of air. It is the history of numerous inventions, bold surmises, and wonderful discoveries. The achievements of investigators of the atmosphere are added proof of the prowess of science disclosing the innermost secrets of nature.