What If Earth Had No Atmosphere?

Talking about the atmosphere and how human behaviors are messing with it is a common topic on the Internet, and these sorts of stories can end up in front of you through various social media channels, peer discussions or TV. They can pop up practically anywhere, which is actually a very good thing.

However, this post is not about saving the atmosphere; it’s about the very existence of it. What if there was no atmosphere on Earth? What would happen if some gigantic space hand peeled the protective layer off of our planet?

The Atmosphere

The atmosphere, as we know it, is a protective layer of gases that envelop the Earth. It consists of a number of gases, including nitrogen (78%), oxygen (21%), argon (0.93%) and traces of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, helium and other noble gases.

The atmosphere is held in place above the planet (as is true of any other celestial body that has an atmosphere) due to its gravitational force, which keeps it adhered.

Importance of the atmosphere

The benefits of having an atmosphere are too extensive to list. The fact that most of life as we know it depends on it says enough about the atmosphere’s importance to the planet. In addition to being an abundant source of oxygen, i.e. the lifeline of most life-forms on Earth, the atmosphere also acts as an insulating layer that protects us from the intense light and harmful radiation of the sun.

Atmosphere layers

Photo credit : dimair/ shutterstock

It basically acts as the backbone of almost every biochemical process in one way or another.

Earth without atmosphere

Since so many aspects of the planet are linked to the atmosphere, let’s start with the one that is the most relevant to our selfish selves.

No humans (no aerobic life)

This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Since humans absolutely and entirely depend on the oxygen present in the atmosphere, there would be no chance of our survival if it didn’t exist. This is not only true of humans, but also of every creature that depends on oxygen, from the tiniest ants to the biggest blue whales… all would perish. Talking about whales, they would also have one more problem on their hands…

No oceans

Dead Planet Earth without water

An artist’s impression of Earth without water (Photo credit : Anton Balazh / Shutterstock)

The atmosphere blocks tons of harmful rays from the Sun and hence shields the planet from scorching heat. In the absence of the atmosphere, however, oceans would simply evaporate as a result of the extreme heat. You shouldn’t expect to find any water, as not having an atmosphere means no oceans, which also means no water cycle!

What will happen to the temperature on Earth?

The moon has no atmosphere, so it basically cooks at 253 degrees Fahrenheit in sunlight and freezes at -243 degrees Fahrenheit in shadow. Similarly, the difference between the temperatures of day and night in an atmosphere-less Earth would also be drastic, ranging up to a few hundred degrees!

Asteroid hammering

meteorites asteroids falling on earth

In one of our articles, we discussed how Earth had sustained a number of devastating asteroid strikes in the last few centuries. In the same article, we also discussed how the huge number of near-Earth objects pose a great risk to the planet. A number of these small objects do hurtle towards Earth, but thanks to our guardian atmosphere, most of them burn up before actually hitting the ground. In the absence of the atmosphere, however, all those bad boys wouldn’t have anything to stop them and would mercilessly strike Earth with impunity.

moon craters

The dreadfully high number of visible craters on the Moon’s surface bear witness to the hammering it has taken from comets and asteroids. (Image Source: Wikipedia.org)

All in all, Earth is incredibly dependent on its atmosphere, so it is in our own and nearly every other life-forms’ (except microorganisms that rely on anaerobic respiration) best interests to keep the atmosphere healthy, and more importantly, attached to our planet!


  1. Enotes
  2. Wikipedia
  3. Earthscience
  4. University of California, Santa Barbara
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Ashish is a Science graduate (Bachelor of Science) from Punjabi University (India). He spends a lot of time watching movies, and an awful lot more time discussing them. He likes Harry Potter and the Avengers, and obsesses over how thoroughly Science dictates every aspect of life… in this universe, at least.

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