ATMOSPHERIC RESOURCES

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.