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Ozone in the Atmosphere

  1. Ozone Production
  2. Ozone Depletion
  3. Increasing Greenhouse Effect

Ozone part three - Human factors: Increasing Greenhouse Effect

smokestacksGreenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere by fossil fueled power plants like this one in Ohio.

The human race is changing the Earth’s atmosphere in two dramatic ways: the greenhouse effect appears to be increasing, and the ozone layer is depleting. The greenhouse effect is produced by increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, trapping more heat and making the Earth warmer. Even a small rise in the average temperature of the Earth could cause HUGE changes in agriculture, affecting the world’s food supply, melting polar ice caps, raising sea level (and causing much flooding), etc.

Remember that carbon dioxide has been buried in the Earth’s crust in the form of oil, coal, and natural gas deposits. As humans burn these fuels to power the world’s activities, carbon dioxide gas is released into the atmosphere. This wouldn’t be a problem if the Earth were covered with tons of forests – plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, rip off a carbon, and release what’s left (oxygen) into the atmosphere. However, the Earth’s forested areas are diminishing.

Carbon dioxide is a problem, but so is the depletion of the ozone layer. Ozone is an unstable molecule in some atmospheres. It is made of three oxygen atoms (O3). Ozone is produced naturally in the Earth’s atmosphere, and it absorbs UV light. Pollution with chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) has destroyed much of the ozone layer, and thus there has been an increase in the UV radiation at the Earth’s surface.

On to Interactive Labs: Measuring the Atmosphere



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