I invite you to consider a question about the physical geography of our land and the atmosphere above it.

Imagine, if you will, that the land mass of Saskatchewan was laid out on a large table that was 30" (76 cm) wide and long enough to accommodate the length of the whole province.

How deep above the table would be the part of our atmosphere which contains most of the life gases that support us and in which nearly all of our weather occurs? a) 14 cm b) 24 cm c) 5 cm d) 3 cm e) 1.4 cm

Click here to read basic facts about the atmosphere

What was your guess?

The correct answer is e), or 1.4 cm / 0.55 inch !

Now let's do a bit of calculating: Saskatchewan, at 49 Degrees N. Lat. is approximately 619 Km / 384 miles east to west.

The part of the atmosphere that most affects us, and in which nearly all of our weather occurs, is the Troposphere, and it is approximately 11.3 Km / 7 miles in depth.

So if the Province of Saskatchewan sat on a table 76 cm / 30 inches wide, the troposphere would be approximately 1.4 cm / .55 inch deep.

Still not believing this? Check the following box information taken from NOVA website:


Consider the implications. All the pollution we add to the air, all the gases we and all living things breathe, all the systems that impact weather and climate.... all of this happens in this very thin layer above the land on which we stand.

Recently in the news is the area of smog pollution in Asia known as the "brown Asian cloud" which is said to be 3 km deep and covering most of southern Asia. Given wind and weather patterns, it is also likely that some of our North American urban smog is being generated in southern Asia. We may be importing manufactured goods from sweat factories in parts of Asia, we are also importing the industrial and agricultural pollution!

But we should not be surprised. We have known for a long time that pesticides used in southern latitudes pollute the snow and water in the high arctic. Remembering that all of this stuff moves in that thin skin of air over the land, we knew the potential impacts. It is just that we continue to ignore the implications of what we know.

Humans look up and seem to think that the atmosphere goes upward forever, and that the "little pollution" that I am responsible for won't amount to anything significant. We need to think again and think in new ways about the air and what we do to it.

When the intensive livestock operation allows the hydrogen sulfide and methane to just exhaust into the air, when the pulp mill belches its gases, when the coal burning power plant packs the air with gases and particulate matter, when millions of gas guzzling vehicles spew out exhaust, when forest fires throw multi-tonnes of matter into the air, when farmers spray pesticides and herbicides on windy days, when you and I spend our money in ways that encourage a throwaway manufacturing process and create mountains of festering landfills.... then we need to remember just how thin this atmosphere is and that we have no where else to live and no where else to hide and no other air to breathe!