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Saturday, April 1, 2017


Ah good clean air to breathe. The air in the United States is actually cleaner today than it was in 1970 when the Clean Air Act was made into law during the Nixon administration. We don't have horrendous pictures like they have in China where people wear masks as they travel about large cities particularly in the summer time. Smog increases with heat. This is why there are burning bans during summer months.

What is the major component of our atmosphere? Surprisingly, it is nitrogen. 78 percent of the Earth's atmosphere is nitrogen. Plants called legumes use atmospheric nitrogen to manufacture protein. This is a part of the Nitrogen cycle and the origin of all protein used by plants and animals.

Oxygen makes up 21 percent of the Earth's atmosphere. A higher concentration and everything would spontaneously combust. It is hard to comprehend that on a molecular level, there is a fire in each of our cells when the chemical bonds of glucose are broken to release the energy of those bonds and carbon dioxide and water.

There is a cycle of carbon dioxide and oxygen production which green plants facilitate. Plants change carbon dioxide and water using sunlight to manufacture glucose. Glucose is changed to more complex sugars or starches. Cellulose which is wood fiber is a sugar made from the combination of two glucose molecules. Many other sugars such as sucrose more commonly known as table sugar are also made from the combination of two glucose molecules.

It gets complicated real quick doesn't it. What sort of complex sugar is formed depends on the molecules it is formed from and how they are positioned and combined. Sort of like if you want crispy cookies you cook at a lower heat for a longer period versus a high heat for a short period of time to produce a soft cookie.

You often read where plants make oxygen and animals release carbon dioxide. That is roughly true. Plants do release oxygen during photosynthesis. However they release carbon dioxide when they break down some of their sugars for their own energy needs.

One percent of the Earth's atmosphere is Argon.

Water vapor makes up perhaps almost nil to 4 percent of the atmosphere. It depends on where you live. If you live near the ocean or any other large body of water, there will be more moisture in the air than you would find in the desert. Water is part of the water cycle which is necessary for life on Earth. Water also helps trap heat from the sun. Have you ever noticed the coldest days are often cloudless. At night when heat is released, no clouds means more heat escapes.

Carbon dioxide makes up 3/100 of a percent of the atmosphere. More correctly written as 0.03%. Such a small amount of gas causing such a benefit or problem depending on how you look at it. Carbon dioxide traps energy from the sun. A lack of carbon dioxide and the night time lows and daytime highs would be much more extreme. Too much carbon dioxide, too much heat is trapped.

We have an excess of carbon dioxide in that we are burning fossil fuels. Hydrocarbons made from dead plants and animals release carbon dioxide when they are burned. Sort of like every car on the road is burning a campfire. We produce more heat in addition to more carbon dioxide.

Fossil fuels are similar to whale oil. Whale oil was used to produce light in homes as "right whales" were almost hunted into extinction. We like fossil fuels in that is what we are familiar with. But they are the right whales of our era. The future holds a different energy source. When you read about carbon caps, they are talking about man growing more trees that store water, energy and excess carbon dioxide.

Neon, helium, krypton and xenon are trace gases in our atmosphere. With krypton in our atmosphere, superman had to have some health problems. 😊


  1. I didn't know krypton was a real element. Things will soon get worse, since Trump seems hell-bent on reversing all environmental controls. :(
    Interesting and educational. Thanks, Ann!

    1. Hopefully the GOP congress will put some controls on 45. Abolishing the EPA benefits no one. Even Exxon-Mobile has said the United States needs to support the Paris Climate Accord.

  2. Science makes simple things so complicated. :-P

    1. It makes you understand why people want simple answers, eh. The more you study science, the more you find you need to know.

  3. I learned a lot from your post.

  4. This is good information from a worldbuilding perspective. I've done many detailed articles on worldbuilding, from geography to metals. Great article.

  5. Living in California, I remember when the air quality down in the LA Basin was horrible. I can tell it is much better, today. Mexico's air quality is horrible. As soon as you cross the border, you smell car exhaust and at the end of the day, when you wash your face, it's black, with all the polution.

  6. Love it, because air is so important to life.

  7. It never fails to amaze me how much I enjoy the air I breathe when in the country. So different from the city life.

    DB McNicol, author & traveler
    Theme: Oh, the places we will go!


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