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UNSW : UNSW Atmosphere Study Guide
Atmosphere Study Guide 20 Explain (introduction) Teacher’s information In this section, we explain the science of the atmosphere by getting students to read Cosmos articles about theories and issues related to the atmosphere. This section suggests discussion topics and activities linked to those articles. Prior to reading one or all of the articles, we have included a general brainstorm about the atmosphere. Each article has its own glossary and comprehension activities. A questioning toolkit is provided at the end of all four articles to stimulate student thinking and promote discussion. The articles include: Article One – Safety blanket (first published in Cosmos 26 on 18 March 2009) This article provides an overall summary of the structure and features of the Earth’s atmosphere. Fast facts: • The total weight of the atmosphere is 5.1 quadrillion tonnes. • The atmosphere is composed of 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen and peppered with argon, carbon dioxide (CO2), ozone and other trace gases. Article Two – The gathering storms (first published on cosmosmagazine.com on 10 February 2010) This article explains how cities are changing weather patterns due to the heat they accumulate, the way they obstruct air flow and the amount of pollution they pump in to the air. Fast facts: • A severe thunderstorm can release more than 1015 joules of energy. • At any given moment there are 2,000 thunder storms in progress around the world. • Severe thunder storms cause over $2 billion worth of property damage and kill more than 100 people each year in the U.S. alone. Article Three – Carbon busters (first published in Cosmos 23 on 17 September 2008) This article discusses the possibilities of storing our waste CO2 so that it is unable to add to the increase in green house gas levels. Fast facts: • It’s clear that if we want to stabilise CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere we need to stop the rise in fossil fuel emissions. • Possible solutions range from boosting natural forms of carbon capture and storage, to schemes for snatching CO2 from smoke stacks and disposing of it deep underground or in seafloor sediments. • Success in sequestering carbon depends on meeting two major challenges: how to remove CO2 from the air (or prevent it from getting there in the first place) and what to do with it once it has been collected. Article Four – Hole in the Heavens (first published in Cosmos 18 on November 2007) This article takes us back to the original experiments that showed CFCs were the cause of the hole in the ozone layer over antarctica. Fast facts: • Careful measurements of the wavelengths of light that hit the Earth’s surface can provide fingerprints of many other chemicals in the atmosphere. • “My speculation was that polar clouds were converting chlorine to forms that could rapidly devour ozone.” • Unfortunately, CFCs live in the atmosphere for many decades, so those already emitted are decaying slowly and will continue to maintain annual ozone holes. RESOURCETEACHER’S