One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
An atmosphere or environment which is regulated to ensure conditions such as temperature, air quality, humidity, etc., remain stable, typically for carrying out an industrial process, a scientific experiment, or (now especially) for the storage and transportation of food.
Late 19th century; earliest use found in American Machinist. From controlled + atmosphere.
controlled atmosphere/kənˌtrəʊld ˈatməsfɪə/
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