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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- Emission of carbon dioxide through burning fossil fuel such as coal, petrol and gas.
- 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.