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Global atmospheric changes

Layers of Earth’s atmosphere

Layers atmosphere

Acid rain

from http://www.regentsprep.org/regents/biology/2011%20Web%20Pages/Ecology-%20Human%20Biosphere-%20Influence%20page.htm

Most acid rain influencing New York State is caused by sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide pollution, from the burning of fossil fuels in the Western and Midwestern United States.
These gases combine with water vapor in the atmosphere,  and fall back to the earth
over New York and the Eastern United States as acid precipitation.

Some Problems Associated With Acid Precipitation

* Destruction of limestone and marble monuments due to increased chemical weathering

* Acidification of aquatic ecosystems, destroying life in them

* Damage forests and other plants in a variety of ways

acid rain


SO2 and NOx

SO2 sulfur dioxide – primarily produced for sulfuric acid manufacture , preservative for dry fruits, used in wine-making to prevent spoiling.  However, huge amounts of SO2 get into the atmosphere from power plants burning sulfur-containing coal or oil.

NOx – NOx  refers to NO and NO2.   You find large amounts of this gas in areas of high motor vehicle traffic, such as in large cities.

NOx gases are formed whenever combustion occurs in the presence of nitrogen – as in an air-breathing engine; they also are produced naturally by lightning. In the air it reacts with water vapor to form nitric acid, part of acid rain.

NOx is also directly bad for people – nitric acid in the air worsens respiratory diseases, such as emphysema or bronchitis, or may also aggravate existing heart disease.

NOx also destroys ozone in the stratosphere, which is bad because that lets too much of the Sun’s UV light through.

{ loosely adapted from NOx, Wkipedia }


Smog is air pollution that reduces visibility. The term “smog” was first used in the early 1900s to describe a mix of smoke and fog. The smoke usually came from burning coal. Smog was common in industrial areas, and remains a familiar sight in cities today.

Today, most of the smog we see is photochemical smog. Photochemical smog is produced when sunlight reacts with nitrogen oxides and at least one volatile organic compound (VOC) in the atmosphere. Nitrogen oxides come from car exhaust, coal power plants, and factory emissions. VOCs are released from gasoline, paints, and many cleaning solvents. When sunlight hits these chemicals, they form airborne particles and ground-levelozone—or smog.

Ozone can be helpful or harmful. The ozone layer high up in the atmosphere protects us from the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet radiation. But when ozone is close to the ground, it is bad for human health. Ozone can damage lung tissue, and it is especially dangerous to people with respiratory illnesses like asthma. Ozone can also cause itchy, burning eyes.

Smog is unhealthy to humans and animals, and it can kill plants. Smog is also ugly. It makes the sky brown or gray. Smog is common in big cities with a lot of industry andtraffic. Cities located in basins surrounded by mountains may have smog problems because the smog is trapped in the valley and cannot be carried away by wind. Los Angeles, California, and Mexico City, Mexico, both have high smog levels partly because of this kind oflandscape.

{ from http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/encyclopedia/smog/?ar_a=1 }

Beijing, China: The air on a day after rain (left) and a smoggy day (right)
{ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smog }


{ image below is from http://www.ozoneexpertsblog.com/blog/2011/11/why-should-i-use-ozone.html }


Global warming and greenhouse gases

Greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect

Global warming has not stopped

Was there a pause in the rate of air temperature rise?

The ozone layer, UV light, and CFCs



Environmental Protection

The following is from Regentsprep.org Environmental Protection


In 1970, then President Richard Nixon and Congress worked together to establish the Environmental Protection Agency – EPA – responding to growing public demand for cleaner water, air and land.

Prior to the creation of the EPA the government had no concerted way to regulate and oversee the environmental impact of industrial pollution/emissions.

The EPA has been charged with setting national standards for: emissions and pollutants, issuing permits, overseeing cleanup efforts for past pollution damage.

The EPA works with industry to curb pollution through voluntary pollution control efforts and energy conservation efforts.



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