Atmospheric resources are those elements such as wind, water, sunlight and gases found in the atmosphere which are of benefit to man, animals and plants.

Types of Atmospheric Resources

  • Atmospheric gases, e.g. oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water vapour, ozone layer and some inert gases like neon, argon and helium.
  • Wind.
  • Rain.
  • Solar energy.


The percentage composition of these gases in the atmosphere includes oxygen(21%), nitrogen (78%), inert gases like argon and neon (0.93%), carbon dioxide (0.03%), water vapour including some impurities like smoke and dust is negligible.


Importance of Atmospheric Resources

(1) Gases

(a) Oxygen

  • Oxygen is used by plants and animals for respiration.
  • It also supports burning of materials(i.e. combustion).
  • Oxygen supports animal life.
  • Oxygen combines with water vapour (oxidation) for chemical weathering.
  • Oxygen is also used for industrial purposes.


(a) Carbon dioxide

  • It is required by plant for photosynthesis.
  • Carbon dioxide combines with water to produce chemical weathering (carbonation).
  • Green plants take in carbon dioxide.
  • Carbon dioxide absorbs heat to control atmospheric temperature in the carbon cycle.


(c) Nitrogen

  • Nitrogen is required by plants for the manufacture of proteins.
  • It combines with water to provide food for plant growth.
  • Nitrogen in soil can be converted to nitrate in the soil.
  • Nitrogen gas is used in electrical industry.


(d) Ozone: The ozone layer acts as a blanket to the earth. It protects the earth and its living things against the burning effects of ultraviolet rays of the sun.


(e) Water vapour

  • It is important for rain formation.
  • The resultant rain is used by plants and animals in the process of chemical weathering.
  • Water vapour moderates atmospheric temperature.


(2) Rain

  • It provides water for human consumption.
  • It provides water for agriculture.
  • It reduces temperature and feeds rivers with water.
  • It is a source of underground water.


(3) Sunlight or Solar energy

  • It provides solar energy for drying clothes.
  • It is also used for drying agricultural products.
  • For heating, cooking and cooling processes.
  • It is used for generating electricity.
  • It is required by plants for photosynthesis.
  • It also provides or is a source of vitamin D.
  • It is used for removing salt from sea water.
  • It is useful in food chain.


(4) Wind

  • Wind can be harnessed for wind mills and used for pumping water.
  • It aids drying of clothes and crops.
  • It is used in meteorological studies.
  • It aids sailing of ships and aviation.
  • It is useful in winnowing and pollination.
  • It is used for sporting e.g. yatching.
  • It is used for dispersal of seeds.


Problems Involved in Harnessing Solar

  • Poor technological know-how, such as storage.
  • Inadequate capital i.e. high cost of harnessing it.
  • Fear of competition with established energy sources.
  • Unreliability e.g periods when the sun is not overhead.


Ways in which Human Activities Affect the Composition of the Atmosphere

These include:

  • Emission of carbon dioxide through burning fossil fuel such as coal, petrol and gas.
  • Deforestation.
  • Use of chemical, biological and nuclear warfare.
  • Release of toxic waste.
  • Bush burning.
  • Pollutants emitted from industrial activities.
  • Pollutants emitted from mining and construction works.


Physical changes Associated with Increasing reduction of the Ozone layer

  • As the ozone layer decreases, the amount of ultra-violet rays increases in the atmosphere.
  • The increase in ultra-violet rays increases the amount of solar radiation on the earth’s surface.
  • Excessive ultra-violet rays lead to increase in skin cancer in man.
  • Increased temperature leads to melting of polar ice and this leads to rise in sea levels.
  • Possible increase in precipitation.
  • Death of chlorophyll in plants leading to inability of plants to manufacture food.