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The three major constituents of Earth's atmosphere are nitrogen, oxygen, and argon. Water vapor accounts for roughly 0. 25% of the atmosphere by mass. The concentration of water vapor (a greenhouse gas) varies significantly from around 10 ppm by volume in the coldest portions of the atmosphere to as much as 5% by volume in hot, humid air masses, and concentrations of other atmospheric gases are typically quoted in terms of dry air (without water vapor). The remaining gases are often referred to as trace gases, among which are the greenhouse gases, principally carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. Besides argon, already mentioned, other noble gases, neon, helium, krypton, and xenon are also present. Filtered air includes trace amounts of many other chemical compounds. Many substances of natural origin may be present in locally and seasonally variable small amounts as aerosols in an unfiltered air sample, including dust of mineral and organic composition, pollen and spores, sea spray, and volcanic ash. Various industrial pollutants also may be present as gases or aerosols, such as chlorine (elemental or in compounds), fluorine compounds and elemental mercury vapor. Sulfur compounds such as hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide (SO2) may be derived from natural sources or from industrial air pollution.

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