Key Idea: Processes that take place on the surface of the earth influence the composition and the temperature of the atmosphere.

Students are expected to know that:

  1. The gases that make up the air around us (i.e., the atmosphere) are mostly a mixture of nitrogen and oxygen. A very small percentage of the atmosphere consists of water vapor, carbon dioxide, and other gases.
  2. The air also contains small solid and liquid particles.
  3. Processes that take place on the surface of the earth (e.g., evaporation, photosynthesis, respiration by living organisms, weathering of rocks, burning of fuels) add and remove gasses and particles from the air.
  4. Air can maintain its properties such as temperature and humidity as it moves, but the temperature and the humidity of air are affected by the surface that the air is moving over, such that the surface of the earth can cause the temperature and the humidity of air to gradually increase or decrease.
  5. Air can become warmer by moving over any place on the surface of the earth that is warmer than the air, and air can become cooler by moving over any place on the surface of the earth that is cooler than the air.
  6. The humidity of air (amount of water vapor in the air) can increase when air is above any place on the surface of the earth where there is abundant liquid water.

Boundaries:

  1. For this idea, students will not be assessed on their knowledge of any gasses or types of particles that are not specifically noted.
  2. Students are not expected to know how much of each gas is in the atmosphere.
Percent of students answering correctly (click on the item ID number to view the item and additional data)
Item ID
Number
Knowledge Being Assessed Grades
6–8
Grades
9–12
Select This Item for My Item Bank

WC007001

The humidity of air can increase and it can decrease.

73%

70%

WC005002

The direction and speed of air can be measured.

61%

69%

WC020002

Humidity is a measure of the amount of water vapor in air.

54%

60%

WC016002

The humidity of air can increase and it can decrease.

55%

51%

WC098001

The amount of water vapor in the air above a lake can increase when the temperature of the air above the lake increases.

50%

54%

WC006001

The amount of water vapor in the air can increase and it can decrease.

50%

50%

WC003002

Air temperature and humidity can be different in different places.

50%

46%

WC099002

Both water that is colder and water that is warmer than the air above can affect the temperature of the air above.

43%

51%

WC017002

The amount of water vapor in the air and the temperature of the air are affected by bodies of water beneath the air.

42%

49%

WC012002

The temperature of land can affect the temperature of the air above the land if the land is warmer than the air and if it is colder than the air.

38%

45%

WC021004

The temperature of water can affect the temperature of air above the water even if the water is only a little bit warmer than the air.

35%

49%

WC009002

The temperature of cool air can increase if it moves over warm land or over warm water.

39%

42%

WC019002

The temperature of air can increase by moving over land that is warmer than the air.

37%

44%

WC010002

The temperature of cool air will increase as it moves over a warm place, whether that place is a city or a field.

36%

40%

WC011003

The temperature of air at a certain location can change whenever the temperature of the earth's surface below the air at that location changes.

28%

30%

Frequency of selecting a misconception

Misconception
ID Number

Student Misconception

Grades
6–8

Grades
9–12

WCM079

The humidity of air is the same everywhere on earth (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

36%

39%

WCM078

The temperature of air is the same everywhere on earth (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

35%

39%

WCM005

Humidity is a measure of the temperature of air (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

37%

32%

WCM006

The temperature of air is not affected by the surface of the earth beneath it (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

35%

31%

WCM016

The reason for the pattern of temperature changes over a day or over a year is because the amount of clouds blocking the sun is changing (Aron et al., 1994; Salierno et al., 2005).

28%

22%

WCM007

Air temperature is affected by the surface the air moves over only if the surface is man-made (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

25%

23%

WCM009

The surface below a body of air could affect the temperature of the air only if that surface is extremely hot or extremely cold relative to the temperature of the air. For example, a volcano could warm the air but a surface that is only a little bit warmer than the air could not (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

23%

24%

WCM073

The direction air is moving cannot be measured (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

25%

19%

WCM076

The speed of moving air cannot be measured (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

24%

19%

WCM080

The temperature of air above the earth is affected by the temperature of the surface of the earth if it is warmer than the air, but not if it is colder than the air (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

21%

19%

WCM081

The temperature of air above the earth is affected by the temperature of the surface of the earth if it is colder than the air, but not if it is warmer than the air (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

16%

16%

WCM082

The humidity of air (amount of water vapor in the air) is not affected by the surface of the earth beneath it (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

15%

13%

WCM077

The amount of water vapor in the air cannot change (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

14%

15%

WCM008

The temperature of air changes only when the composition of the air changes (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

12%

11%

WCM072

The humidity of air cannot change (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

10%

10%

WCM083

The temperature of the air cannot change (AAAS Project 2061, n.d.).

4%

3%

Frequency of selecting a misconception was calculated by dividing the total number of times a misconception was chosen by the number of times it could have been chosen, averaged over the number of students answering the questions within this particular idea.