Chapter One Notes - Chapter One The Earth and Its...

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Chapter One: The Earth and Its Atmosphere I) Stars: hot, glowing balls of gas that generate energy by converting hydrogen into helium near their  centers II) Sun is average size star A) Earth is an average distance of nearly 150 million km from the sun B) Radiant energy: Earth intercepts a very small fraction of the sun’s total energy output 1) drives atmosphere into patterns of everyday wind and weather 2) Maintain an average surface temperature of about 15 oc III) Atmosphere: thin gaseous envelope comprised of nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (21%), as well as water  vapor and carbon dioxide A) Within atmosphere are clouds of liquid water and ice crystals B) 99% lies within 30km of earth’s surface C) Functions: 1) Shields the surface and earth’s inhabitants from sun’s dangerous UV radiant energy 2) Shields from the onslaught of material from interplanetary space D) No definite upper limit, becomes thinner and thinner eventually merging with empty space IV) Composition of atmosphere A) At surface, balance between destruction and production of oxygen and nitrogen  B) Concentration of water vapor varies greatly from place to place, and from time to time 1) Condensation: water vapor   liquid water 2) Evaporation: liquid water   water vapor  3) Latent heat a) large amounts of heat released when it changes from vapor to liquid or ice b) Important source of atmospheric energy 4) Potent greenhouse gas—strongly absorbs portion of earth’s outgoing radiant energy C) Carbon dioxide—comprises about 0.037% of atmosphere 1) Enters atmosphere mainly from decay of vegetation, also volcanic eruptions, exhalations of  animal life, burning of fossil fuels, deforestation 2) Removed through photosynthesis, phytoplankton in ocean fix CO 2  into organic tissues 3) Entering atmosphere at greater rate than it is being removed (due mainly to burning of fossil  fuels) 4) Greenhouse gas, increases in it results in global warming of surface air between 1.4 oc  and  5.8 oc . Global warming causes: a) Increasing precipitation in certain areas and reducing it in others b) Global air currents that guide major storm systems across the earth begin to shift from  their “normal” paths D) Other greenhouse gases: 1) Methane (CH 4 ) derived from breakdown of plant material by certain bacteria in rice paddies,  wet oxygen-poor soil, biological activity of termites, and biochemical reactions 2) Nitrous oxide (N 2 O) a) rising annually at rate of about one quarter of a percent
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b) Forms in soil through chemical process involving bacteria and certain microbes c) Destroyed from sun’s UV light  3) Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) a)
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