How much does the atmosphere weigh?

This week’s weather question comes from Jeff Lee of Columbus, Georgia.
He wants to know how much the atmosphere weighs.

We know that air weighs 14.7 psi or pounds per square inch at sea level – meaning about 15 pounds are pressing down on every square inch of you.

In other words, that’s about the weight of car pressing down on you all the time!

So to find out how much the atmosphere weighs, we need to know how many square inches make up the atmosphere – which is about 793 quadrillion square inches.

When we multiply the average pressure ‘pressing’ down or exerted on you (14.7 pounds per square inch) times the square inches that make up the atmosphere (793 quadrillion) that equals about 11,700,000,000,000,000,000 pounds (over 11 quintillion)!

Now the next thing you may be wondering is why we don’t get crushed by all this weight?

That’s because that weight is distributed evenly over Earth’s surface and evenly over the surface of your body. The amount of pressure exerted inward (like from above and beside) is balanced by the pressure exerted outward because we breathe in the atmosphere too!

If you have your own weather or science related question send it to Meteorologist Carmen Rose at crose@wrbl.com.

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