Making A Difference On Climate Change

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions enough to curb the growth in the planet's warming trend will require action from individuals and from governments at all levels local, regional, national, and international. The Union of Concerned Scientists has published a set of actions that individuals can take to reduce their contribution to global warming. Many of these actions are similar to those suggested in Chapter 11 for reducing air pollution, since the emissions come largely from the same sources....

Brief History Of Acid Precipitation

Acid precipitation is not a new problem it has simply become a bigger problem. The term acid rain was coined in 1856 by a British chemist named Robert Angus Smith who noticed that plants downwind of industrial areas, even in areas located a great distance from the source, were being damaged. In 1962, Swedish scientist Svante Odgen compiled records from the 1950s indicating that acid rain came from air masses moving out of Central and Western Europe into Scandinavia. In the late 1960s and early...

External Factors That Affect Air Quality

The amount and type of pollutants entering the air varies by time and location. Bad air days can occur in the winter, when there is a buildup of wood smoke or a temperature inversion, or in the summer, when photochemical smog is at its worst. The air quality of a location also depends on external features, such as winds, temperature inversions, and the local topography (the ups-and-downs of the landscape). Winds move polluted air away from a region or bring in fresh air to dilute it. On days...

Preface Sample On Air Pollution

The planet is a marvelous place a place with blue skies, wild storms, deep lakes, and rich and diverse ecosystems. The tides ebb and flow, baby animals are born in the spring, and tropical rain forests harbor an astonishing array of life. The Earth sustains living things and provides humans with the resources to maintain a bountiful way of life water, soil, and nutrients to grow food, and the mineral and energy resources to build and fuel modern society, among many other things. The physical...

The Earths Energy Balance

The amount of energy entering the Earth system from the Sun is nearly equal to the amount of energy radiating away from the planet. Solar energy arrives at the top of the Earth's atmosphere as UV or visible light. About 50 of this energy is absorbed, scattered, or reflected by clouds 3 is reflected by the Earth's surface and 47 50 absorbed, reflected, and scattered by the atmosphere 19 absorbed by clouds and atmosphere The fate of incoming solar radiation in the atmosphere and at the Earth's...

The Kyoto Protocol

The Kyoto Protocol is designed to lessen the effects of climate change by lowering emissions of greenhouse gases. Like the Montreal Protocol, it attempts to solve an environmental problem by having the countries of the world agree to limit the production of environmentally damaging compounds. Kyoto was ratified in 2004 after several years of debates. Of the 130 countries that signed, 36 were industrialized nations that agreed to cut back their CO2 emissions to at least 5 below 1990 levels by...

Lung Cancer

Pollution Causes Cancer

Cancer is not a single disease, but a group of more than 100 distinct diseases. The unifying trait of all cancers is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Although treatments have been significantly improved in the past half century, cancer is the cause of one in every four deaths in the United States. More than 30 of the people who receive a cancer diagnosis from their doctor will be dead of the disorder within five years, although some cancers can be treated successfully. A...

Drought

Drought is a change in the weather that is sustained over longer periods of time than either storms or excess heat. A region may be experiencing a drought if it has had a shortage of rainfall for days or weeks, or, more likely, for seasons or even years. The presence of a drought is determined by the distribution of precipitation over a given area before and during the dry period. Drought also is related to the effectiveness of any rains that fall. For example, if a region receives The Dust...

What Is Acid Rain

Pollution Global Warming

Acid rain is rain that is more acidic than normal by definition, it has a pH of less than 5.0. The pH of a substance is a measure of its acidity or alkalinity. Natural rainfall is slightly acidic, with a pH of about 5.6. The acidity of natural rain is due to the small amount of CO2 that dissolves in rainwater and forms mild carbonic acid. There are several steps to the creation of acid rain. Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and the nitrogen oxides (NOx) are released during the combustion of coal and...

Cyclones

Cyclones are much larger but less common than thunderstorms and tornadoes. A cyclone is a system of winds rotating around a low pressure center. These winds circulate counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere and clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere due to the Coriolis effect. At the center of the cell, air rises and cools, causing clouds and rain. There are two types of cyclones the typical winter storms of the mid-latitudes and the more intense late-summer storms of the tropical regions,...

Pollutants From Fossil Fuels

Air pollution today is largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Primary pollutants enter the atmosphere directly, from a smokestack or tailpipe. Secondary pollutants form from a chemical reaction between a primary pollutant and some other component of air, such as water vapor or another pollutant. Ozone is the major secondary pollutant. Fossil fuels come from decayed and transformed ancient organisms. Plants store CO2 in their bodies, so plant materials that have been converted to fossil...

The Antarctic Ozone Hole

Atmospheric scientists wondered Why was an ozone hole forming over Antarctica, and why in the spring Years of work have found answers to these questions. Global atmospheric circulation patterns carry air and its pollutants toward the poles. During the long, dark Antarctic winter, a strong wind, called the polar vortex, circles the pole in the middle to lower stratosphere, trapping frigid air over the polar region. When air temperatures get cold enough, below approximately -110 F (-80 C), polar...

The Behavior Of Light

On a warm, sunny day, it is not sunlight that makes the air feel warm, at least not directly. The sunlight is absorbed by the ground surface. This light's energy causes the molecules in the ground to vibrate faster, which increases their temperature and warms the ground. Some of that energy is then emitted as heat. Other substances, including human skin, absorb light energy and convert it to heat. When skin absorbs radiation, it experiences chemical and physical...

Acidity and pH

Acidic substances, like lemons, have a sour taste. Strong acids can be harmful for example, they may burn skin. The acidity of a substance is measured on the pH scale. The H in pH refers to the free positively charged hydrogen ions. The numbers of the pH scale range from 0 to 14, where 7 is neutral, meaning that the substance is neither acidic nor alkaline. Numbers higher than 7 are alkaline also known as basic and lower than 7 are acidic. The lowest numbers are the strongest acids, and the...

Fog

Air Pollution Smoke

Fog forms when humid air near the ground cools below its dew point. Fog not only influences weather, it sometimes plays a role in the defining character of a region. For example, San Francisco is famous for its advection fog, which forms as warm, wet air over the Pacific Ocean blows eastward over the cold California Current. Just before it reaches the California coastline, the air cools below its dew point, and the fog is brought onshore by breezes coming inland from the sea. On windy days, the...

Most Polluted Cities in the United States

The ten most polluted cities in the world in 2006 were all in China, pushing Mexico City out of the top spot after it had spent decades as the world's most polluted city. Although pollutants include constituents that are naturally part of the atmosphere, such as CO2, human activities may release them in higher than normal quantities. Some compounds are pollutants because they are present in a region of the atmosphere where they do not belong for example, the ozone...

The Gases Needed For Biological Processes

Inputs And Outputs Photosynthesis

Nitrogen N2 and oxygen O2 make up 99 of the gases found in the atmosphere. Although other components comprise only the remaining 1 , some are extremely important. The table above is a list of atmospheric gases and their concentrations. Many gases are in balance in the atmosphere that is, the amount that enters, the input, equals the amount that leaves, the output. Nitrogen, the most abundant atmospheric gas, is in balance. This gas is input by the decay of plants and animals and is output by...

El Nio Events

Sea Currents Global Warming South Africa

El Ni o events also have a temporary effect on weather these effects may be both regional and global. Some of the most profound short-term changes in global climate take place during an El Ni o. These events are caused by the reversing of the atmospheric and oceanic currents in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. In a normal year, the Peru Current travels up South America from the frigid waters that flow around Antarctica. Because the water is very cold, it is also dense, and deep sea water can rise...

Reservoir For Water

To keep water moving between the atmosphere and the Earth's surface, the gaseous form of water, or water vapor, must pass through the atmosphere. While air is never dry, the amount of water vapor it contains varies from place to place and from time to time. This fact is obvious when comparing a summer day in Atlanta, Georgia, with a winter night in Fairbanks, Alaska. Humidity is the concentration of water vapor in the air. Up to 4 of the volume of the air can be water vapor. This vapor is...

Atmosphere

Copyright 2007 by Dana Desonie, Ph.D. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage or retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher. For information contact An imprint of Infobase Publishing 132 West 31st Street New York NY 10001 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data p. cm. Our fragile planet Includes...

Greenhouse Gases For Insulation

Carbon dioxide and several other gases, both natural and man-made, are greenhouse gases. The presence of greenhouse gases makes complex life on the Earth possible. Although UVC and some UVB are filtered out by the ozone layer, most of the Sun's radiation lower energy UV and visible light passes through the atmosphere unimpeded. When this radiation hits the planet's surface, the energy is absorbed by soil, rock, concrete, or water and then is reemitted as heat. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere...

The Effects Of Acid Rain On Forests And Agriculture

Sulfuric and nitric acids are detrimental to all plant life. Even if the soil is well-buffered, forests can be damaged by acid fog. Acid deposition of all sorts ruins the waxy coatings of leaves, harming the tree's ability to exchange water and gases with the atmosphere. Trees weakened by acid experience slower growth or injury and are more vulnerable to stresses such as pests or drought. Acid-damaged plants are easily identified the leaves of leafy plants turn yellow, and damaged pine needles...

Pollutants From Secondary Chemical Reactions

Some pollutants, most importantly ozone O3 , do not come directly from fossil-fuel combustion but are the result of a two-step process. First, hydrocarbons from incompletely burned gasoline react with nitrogen oxides and atmospheric oxygen to form ozone. Second, the ozone reacts with automobile exhaust to form photochemical smog. These chemical reactions only occur in the presence of sunlight, so ozone pollution is at its worst on the sunny summer days common in places such as Southern...

Greenhouse Gases And Global Warming

As was described in Chapter 1, greenhouse gases trap heat and insulate the Earth, which moderates global climate. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide CO2 , water vapor, ozone O3 , methane, nitrous oxide, and synthetic gases such as chlorofluorocarbons CFCs . All greenhouse gases do not have the same heat-trapping ability. For example, one CFC molecule traps as much heat as 10,000 CO2 molecules methane traps about 23 times as much heat as CO2. Since water vapor and CO2 are so much more...

Local Winds

How Draw Local Winds

Wind is another major element of weather and may define the character of one region as much as fog defines another. Wind is created by air moving from zones of high pressure to zones of low pressure. The greater the difference in pressure between the two zones, the greater the wind speed will be. A variety of conditions brings about the formation of high and low pressure cells and generates wind. Winds can be created by the temperature differences between land and sea. In the winter, air over a...

The Effects Of An Urban Heat Island

Cities have high air pollution due to the high density of industry, motor vehicles, and solid-waste burning. Particulates scatter solar radiation, reduce the sunlight that reaches the city, and serve as nuclei for water droplets, which form haze and reduce visibility. Particulates also absorb some of the heat radiated from the Earth's surface, contributing to urban heat island effect. When there is a temperature inversion, pollutants become trapped in the air and concentrations can become...

The Differences Between Urban And Rural Weather And Climate

Differences Between Urban And Rural

Temperature is the largest climatic difference between the country and the city. In winter and summer, at night and in the daytime, cities are warmer than rural areas. On a hot summer day, the temperature difference can be as great as 10 F 6 C . The intensity of the temperature An Extreme Urban Heat Island Phoenix, Arizona Climatologists say that Phoenix, Arizona, and its environs also known as the Valley of the Sun is the world's foremost urban heat island. Phoenix lies at 33 N in the Sonora...

Atmospheric Pressure And Temperature

Convection Currents From Radiator

Air is made of gas molecules that can move freely. Like all matter, air molecules are attracted to the Earth by its gravity, which draws objects to the center of the planet. Gravity is strongest at lower altitude the height above sea level and air molecules are packed closest together at sea level. Air is also compressed by the weight of all the air above it. The weight of a column of air from the top of the atmosphere onto a person's shoulders at sea level is more than one ton. But people and...

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina Death Toll

The most destructive hurricane to hit the United States in historic times was born unceremoniously as Tropical Depression Twelve over the southeastern Bahamas on August 23, 2005. By the next morning, it had become Tropical Storm Katrina, and one day later it was a hurricane. That same day, the storm moved over south Florida as a Category 1 hurricane, killing nine people and causing an estimated 600 million in damage. But that was just Katrina's opening act. The storm traveled west over the Gulf...

Acid Destruction Of Cultural Materials

Destruction From Acid Rain

Acid rain takes a toll on stone buildings and other structures including those that are culturally significant. Just as limestone and marble buffer acidic water, acid rain dissolves buildings and statues made of these materials. The decreased pH of rain and fog is taking its toll on cultural objects, a phenomenon that has long been recognized. In the same year that he coined the term acid rain 1856 , Robert Angus Smith wrote, It has often been observed that the stones and bricks of buildings,...

Acid Rain And Freshwater Ecosystems

Water with low pH diminishes the quantity and variety of life in lakes and streams. Most aquatic plants grow best in water with a pH of 7.0 to 9.2. As pH decreases, populations of submerged aquatic plants decline, reducing food for some water birds. Numbers of freshwater shrimp, crayfish, clams, and some fish start to dwindle. At pH 5.5, the bacteria that decompose leaf litter and other debris begin to die, cutting off the supply of organic material for plankton. Aluminum leached from the soil...

Cloud Names

All Cloud Types

The various cloud types are depicted above. The various cloud types are depicted above. have a more moderate temperature range the difference between daily high and low temperature than cloudless days. Almost all clouds are found in the troposphere. They are classified by their appearance into 4 main groups, as shown in the table on page 48. These 4 main groups contain 10 cloud types, classified by appearance and height above the ground. High clouds reside at greater than 20,000 feet 6,100 m ....

Further Reading

Washington, D.C. Readers Digest, 1999. ANU Reporter. Hell's Milder Side. Australia National University, 2005. Available online. Accessed March 16, 2007. Athanasiou, Tom, and Paul Baer. Dead Heat Globalization and Global Warming. New York Seven Stories Press, 2002. Ayers, Harvard, Charles E. Little, and Jenny Hager. An Appalachian Tragedy Air Pollution and Tree Death in the Eastern Forests of North America. San Francisco Sierra Club Books, 1998. Burt,...

Ozone For Protection From Ultraviolet Radiation

Ozone is a molecule composed of three oxygen atoms O3 . In the layer of the upper atmosphere known as the stratosphere, ozone filters out the Sun's harmful high-energy ultraviolet UV radiation. The ozone molecule forms in the stratosphere when UV energy breaks down some O2 molecules to make single O-atoms. These O-atoms then bond with other O2 molecules to form O3. The reverse process also takes place in the stratosphere as UV energy breaks apart O3 molecules to make O2 and O. The breaking down...

Continental Position

The position of a location relative to an ocean is important in determining climate. A location with a maritime climate is influenced by the sea a location farther inland has a continental climate and is removed from the effects of the ocean. The reasons why the oceans play such a large role in climate include differences in the specific heat of water and rock as well as the moderating effect of the ocean. Earthy materials rock, sand, and soil have a much lower specific heat than water. Land...

Global Wind Belts

Ferrel Cell

The Coriolis effect modifies global air circulation so that there are six atmospheric circulation cells, three in each hemisphere. At the equator, air behaves as described in the section on atmospheric circulation above. Warm air rises, creating a low pressure cell, and then moves toward the poles at the top of the troposphere. As the air advects poleward, it is deflected by the Coriolis effect to the right in the Northern Hemisphere and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere. By about 30 N or...

Other Factors That Shape a Regions Climate

Many other factors besides latitude shape a region's climate. The proximity of a large body of water, such as an ocean, is a major influence, since oceans tend to moderate climate. A land area near an ocean will have a smaller temperature range the difference between high and low temperature than one that is farther inland. Climate is also altered by a location's proximity to ocean currents, which distribute heat around the globe. Warm currents traveling to higher latitudes from the equator...

The Atmosphere Past and Present

Earth's atmosphere formed from physical and biological processes that took place over billions of years. Although the atmosphere is a continuous cloak of gas molecules and other particles, this cloak can be divided into layers, or strata. These strata are not based on the composition of the atmosphere itself, because the types of gases and their abundance relative to each other do not vary much. The one extremely important exception to this is the stratospheric ozone layer, which protects the...

Acknowledgments For Air Pollution

I would like to thank, above all, the scientists who have dedicated their lives to the study of the Earth, especially those engaged in the important work of understanding how human activities are impacting the planet. Many thanks to the staff of Facts On File and Chelsea House for their guidance and editing expertise Frank Darmstadt, Executive Editor Brian Belval, Senior Editor and Leigh Ann Cobb, independent developmental editor. Dr. Tobi Zausner located the color images that illustrate our...

Air Masses

Air Masses North America

The temperature and humidity of a region on a given day depend largely on the characteristics of the air mass that lies above it. An air mass forms when air sits over a region for several days or longer Air masses over North America and their source regions. Air masses over North America and their source regions. and acquires the distinctive temperature and humidity of that region. This happens because heat and moisture are transferred between the ground surface and the air above it until the...

The Layers Of The Atmosphere

Layers The Atmosphere Ozone Layer

The composition of atmospheric gases is about the same at different altitudes, with the important exception of the ozone layer. Despite being similar in its composition throughout, the atmosphere is divided into layers that are defined primarily by temperature gradient, which is the change of temperature that occurs with distance or, in this case, altitude . The layer nearest the Earth's surface, rising from sea level to about 6 miles 11 km , is the troposphere. The primary heat source for the...

Nearby Mountains

Mountains Precipitation Effect

Air temperature decreases with increasing altitude because there are fewer molecules to collide with each other and less heat is generated. So the air atop a mountain range is typically colder than the air at its base. But altitude is not the only way mountain ranges shape climate. Mountain ranges have two additional effects, both of which are especially apparent if the mountains are near a coastal area. The first is obvious If the mountain range separates the coastal region from the continent,...

Atmospheric Circulation

Throwing Ball From Equator

The atmosphere circulates in great convection cells that begin their motions near the equator. The tropical low pressure zone sucks air horizontally along the ground surface into the gap it leaves. The horizontal motion of air along the ground creates wind. Air in the low pressure zone rises upward to the top of the troposphere then flows toward the poles. As it travels at the top of the atmosphere, the air cools, eventually becoming dense enough to sink, creating a high pressure zone. When it...

Ocean Currents

Wind Driven Surface Currents Gyres

Not only do oceans affect climate, but regions with a maritime or partial maritime climate are influenced by the temperature of the nearby ocean. For example, cool, foggy San Francisco weather is affected by The concept of latent heat answers important questions about climate. For example, why is March cooler than September in the Northern Hemisphere, even though at any given location the two months have the same day length and the same solar radiation March is cooler because much of the Sun's...

Jet Streams

Jet streams streams of air suspended in the atmosphere have an enormous influence on the weather. These rivers of air can travel faster than 100 knots 115 mph, 185 km hr and are thousands of miles km long, a few hundred miles km wide, and only a few miles km thick. Jet streams are found at the transition between the troposphere and the stratosphere at heights ranging from 6 to 9 miles 10 to 15 km above the Earth's surface. Jet streams form when there are great temperature differences between...