Air Pollution

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...

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...

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,...

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 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...

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,...

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...

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...

Thunderstorms And Tornadoes

Air Pollutiontornadoes

Thunderstorms are so common in some locations that they can hardly be considered extreme. Each year, our planet hosts about 14 million of these wild tempests, which averages to 40,000 thunderstorms a day. Although they can be extremely powerful and do a great deal of damage, thunderstorms are relatively small compared to other powerful storms such as cyclones. Thunderheads form individually or along the length of a cold front that can be as long as 600 miles (1,000 km). The most dangerous...

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...

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,...

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...

Air Pollution And The National Parks

The national parks are a good place to gain understanding of the effects of air pollution on the environment. The parks are small and contained, and many have been well studied over many decades. Although national parks are set aside from the rest of the landscape, they do not exist in isolation Traffic, noise, and air and water pollution invade them no matter where they are. Most air pollution in national parks comes from outside park boundaries, and some of the greatest jewels of the park...

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...

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...

Introduction

Without its atmosphere the envelope of gases that surrounds a planet or moon the Earth would be unrecognizable. With no gases for light or sound to travel through, the skies would be black and silent. With no air in which to float or fly, pollen, birds, and airplanes would fall to the ground. Of course, there would be no plants, animals, or airplanes, since there would be no gaseous molecules to support life or to protect organisms from the Sun's harmful, high-energy radiation. The planet would...

The Antarctic Ozone Hole

What Healthy Ozone Layer

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...

Local Winds

Moist Air And Dry Air

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...

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 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...

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...

Reducing Emissions From Motor Vehicles

Cars and other motor vehicles emit far less pollution than they did just a few decades ago. This is due to the higher emissions standards, improvements in fuel quality, and the installation of pollution-reducing technologies in many vehicles. One emission-reduction technology found in all modern cars in the United States is the catalytic converter, which is used to reduce and oxidize three pollutants CO, NOx, and VOCs. Catalytic converters are ceramic structures that are coated with metal...

The History Of Air Pollution And Air Pollution Legislation

The burning of wood and coal for warmth and energy has caused problems for centuries, or even millennia. Ever since early humans made wood fires in their caves, people have been choking on the air. In 1306, King Edward I of England banned the use of sea coal, which produced acrid smoke, in London. The air in the city was so bad in 1661 that John Evelyn, the English author, wrote in Fumifugium, (one of the earliest books written about pollution problems), That this Glorious and Ancient City . ....

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Meteorologist and Storm Chaser Alan Moller

Alan Moller's earliest memories of thunderstorms are from a tragic day in 1954 when he was four years old. While going to visit relatives, his family was in a severe traffic accident, and his mother was killed. The family spent the night with a doctor in a small town in eastern Indiana that was experiencing severe thunderstorms. Large tree limbs were blown down, and there was lightning from a new storm. The destruction he witnessed from the storms and from the accident became entangled in his...

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...

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....

Volatile Organic Compounds

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are mostly hydrocarbons that enter the atmosphere primarily by evaporation. The EPA estimates that 18 million tons (16 million metric tons) of VOCs enter the atmosphere in the United States each year. Some VOCs form naturally, but most are synthetic (man-made). VOCs are found in paint thinners, dry-cleaning solvents, petroleum fuels, and wood preservatives, among other materials. There are tens of thousands of different VOCs in the air Some are harmless, others...

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...

Air Pollution Trends

For the most part, the air over the United States has gotten cleaner since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970. Figures published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), show that between 1970 and 2003 the population of the United States grew by 39 , the gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 176 , vehicle miles traveled increased by 155 , and energy consumption increased by 45 . Yet, during this period, emissions of the six major pollutants (carbon monoxide, lead, nitrous oxides,...

The Behavior Of Light

Mirage Caused Refraction

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...

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...

Pollutants From Biomass Burning

Burning plant and animal material also produces pollutants. Biomass is the amount of living material found in an environment in this case, material primarily from plants. Slash-and-burn agriculture, the preferred method for farming in tropical regions, is an enormous source of pollutants. In this type of agriculture, rain forests are chopped down and burned, and the land is then farmed. But rain forest soil is infertile and in a few years the farmer needs to slash and burn another patch of...

Air Pollution and the Environment

Air quality not only depends on the types and amounts of pollutants that are in the air, but also on external factors such as wind speed, atmospheric stability, and landscape. Stagnant air, such as the air beneath a temperature inversion or in a windless location, will collect more pollutants because clean air is not coming in, and pollutants are not being removed. Pollutants have an adverse effect on the environment. Particulates reduce visibility and obscure sunlight. Ozone alters the plant...

Health Effects Of Air Pollution

Most of the effects people experience from air pollution are short term irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat headaches nausea allergic reactions or upper respiratory infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. But short-term problems depend not only on the duration of exposure, but also on the concentration of exposure, as seen during the Big Smoke in London in 1952, when 4,000 people died after just a few days of high exposure. Most air-quality standards were developed for average...

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...

The Atmosphere Above Cities

Cities influence their own weather and climate, including air temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, and amount of precipitation. These differences are due largely to the altering of natural terrain tall buildings and pavement have very different effects on their surroundings than vegetated areas and waterways have on theirs. The emission of heat by vehicles, power plants, and factories also alters temperature. The increased temperature found in cities is known as the urban heat...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Not Just Latitude

If latitude were the only factor controlling climate, all locations at the same latitude would have the same climate. A look at the following table of latitude and climate shows that this is not the case. Although a traveler on a summertime road trip across America at 33 N would be warm all along the way, he or she would go from the warm and breezy California coast at Long Beach, through the sweltering Arizona desert in Phoenix, to the dripping mugginess of Atlanta, Georgia. A traveler on a...