Atmospheric Pressure Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Atmospheric pressure is the force pushing against objects from the weight of the air above it. Come learn about atmospheric pressure, why it doesn't crush you, why we measure it, and some other cool facts about it.

What is Atmospheric Pressure?

If you've ever carried a bucket of water, you know that it's heavy. Now, think about diving in the ocean. As you go deeper, the weight of the water is putting pressure on you and pushing on your body. You can only go so deep before the pressure from the water weight is too much to handle.

But you live under an ocean every day as you're eating breakfast, playing with friends, or taking a test in school. However, this isn't an ocean of water, it's an ocean of air! Air isn't as heavy as water, but it has weight and pushes on you from all directions with a total force of as much as a ton. That's like carrying around a medium-sized giraffe!

That force pushing on you from the weight of the air is called atmospheric pressure.

Why Don't You Feel Atmospheric Pressure?

Luckily, you don't need superhero strength to keep from being crushed by atmospheric pressure and probably don't even notice it. That's because your body has air inside it, too, which has about the same pressure as the air outside your body.

It's like putting the palms of your hands together and pushing as hard as you can. Neither hand moves because they are pushing on each other with the same amount of pressure.

However, atmospheric pressure isn't the same everywhere and there is more pressure on your body when you are at sea level than when you are on a tall mountain. That's because there is less air above you on that tall peak. But your body is stretchy enough, like elastic, to adapt to more or less pressure and can adjust.

Sometimes you feel this in your ears. If you've ever flown in an airplane or driven through the mountains, you notice your ears pop when you go higher and again when you come down. That's because the pressure on the inside of your ear is trying to copy the changing pressure on the outside.

But a water bottle opened at a higher level and then taken down to a lower level will be crushed by atmospheric pressure because it can't adjust like you can.

Atmospheric pressure crushes water bottle
Atmospheric pressure crushes bottle

Measuring Atmospheric Pressure

Atmospheric pressure is measured with a scientific instrument called a barometer (pronounced buh-ROM-it-er). There are different kinds of barometers made of different materials, but they all measure atmospheric pressure.


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