This is an artist's rendition of a column of clouds on Venus.
The temperature of the different layers is shown at the left.
Click on image for full size
Windows to the Universe original image
The Atmosphere of Venus
The atmosphere of Venus is very hot and thick. If you were on the
the planet, the air above you would be about 90 times heavier than the
Earth's atmosphere. This is
like what a submarine experiences at 3000 ft
below the surface of the Earth's ocean. The atmosphere is composed
carbon dioxide (96%), 3.5% nitrogen, and less than 1% is made up of
carbon monoxide, argon, sulfur dioxide, and water vapor.
All this carbon
dioxide in the air has produced at strong greenhouse
effect, which traps
heat in the atmosphere. A small amount of sunlight can
penetrate the planet's thick cloud layer (about 2%) without being
reflected by the sulfuric acid clouds or
absorbed by the atmosphere. Whatever sunlight does make it through heats
the surface, and is reemitted in the infrared. But virtually all energy
emitted by the planet in the
infrared (heat radiation) is absorbed by the carbon dioxide rich air.
The result is unusually high surface temperatures of about 460C (860F).
Why should Venus and not the Earth have a hot and thick atmosphere? Some scientists call it the Goldilocks phenomenon.
made by probes which travelled
through the atmosphere have shown that
temperature varies no more than a few degrees from the equator to the
poles, and that the atmospheric temperature remains nearly constant
through the long dark night. Thus there are no significant daily, seasonal, or
latitudinal temperature gradients in the atmosphere.
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