The Atmosphere, essential for life on earth.
22nd October, 2020
Reading time: 5 minutes.
There are planets where the dense atmosphere of greenhouse gases produces a surface temperature that could melt lead. There are others, or even the earth long before the intensive period of meteorite impact, that keep radioactive elements on its surface producing burning heat *. Perhaps during that time of earth cooling, millions of years ago, there were optimal conditions that allowed life in some way on planets like Mars or Venus. Now there’s life on earth! But, to understand what allows this phenomenon to happen, it’s essential to recognize that there are a complete series of conditions and circumstances that make our planet an ideal place for life. So… Is planet earth as special as we think? We will explain everything you want to know and much more.
You would be surprised to discover all the circumstances that allow you to be reading this today! Life on earth would be unimaginable if it wasn’t for a series of specific and vulnerable conditions. The atmosphere is one of them. The production of oxygen, the blocking of ultraviolet radiation, the hydrological cycle, among others, are just some of the conditions that are codependent and that, with any modification, directly alter the atmosphere and our life.
When we talk about these environmental modifications, we commonly talk about the agents that contaminate life cycles and the layers that protect the earth. Air pollution is a problem that affects every living being on the planet, and we must prevent an even worse climate crisis, because, if we don’t change our habits and way of acting, our life on earth could be history. If you don’t know what air pollution is, or what is the difference between the atmosphere, hydrosphere and all the cycles that exist on the planet and that allows life, keep reading!
*Estudio publicado en la revista Nature Science, por Jellinek de la Universidad de Columbia Británica.
The atmosphere is, actually, essential.
The atmosphere is a compound of stable gases, of approximately 10,000 km thick bound to the planet by the force of gravity, that surrounds the lithosphere and hydrosphere and envelops the earth. Without it, the earth would be a barren and hostile place!
Its most important functions are:
It provides living beings with essential gases for life, such as oxygen. It’s the second most abundant gas and is found in the troposphere, the first layer of the atmosphere, where organisms, plants and living beings that take advantage of this element live.
Allows the existence of water:
It’s part of the hydrological cycle, the water cycle that all living things need to live. Thanks to the atmosphere, clouds are formed and there’s an appropriate climate for water to be transported from one place to another.
It’s a natural sunscreen:
It protects us from most of the ultraviolet radiation since the ozone of the atmosphere absorbs most of the rays that come from the sun.
Provides an ideal temperature:
It allows the planet’s environment to be regulated at an ideal temperature for life. CO₂, present in the atmosphere in less than 0.1%, allows the planet’s temperature to remain stable, blocks part of the heat from the rays of the Sun during the day, and at night, it keeps the heat close to the surface.
Acts as a protective shield:
It protects us from meteorites because when they have to go through several layers at different temperatures, they disintegrate with the help of the gases in the atmosphere. The molecules are in constant movement, and when they collide with the meteorites, they disintegrate due to their speed..
We can hear sounds thanks to the atmosphere:
It allows sound to spread like waves in space. Therefore, thanks to the atmosphere, you can listen to music and people talk. Sound waves can’t travel in empty space, but they can travel through gases in the air.
Air pollution affects our lives.
All these conditions, as well as the cycles that allow life such as the oxygen and water cycle, depend directly on the existence of a stable atmosphere. So what about air pollution? Carbon dioxide, which is found in a low concentration on the atmosphere, plays an essential role since it prevents the direct radiation that reaches us from the Sun from being returned in its fullness to space. In other words, it allows the entrance of solar radiation but prevents all heat from escaping, keeping the earth from being a frozen place.
But the indiscriminate increase in this gas caused by industrial processes, the use of fossil fuels and logging causes an atmosphere imbalance. In this way, the concentration of carbon dioxide increases, sunlight continues it entrances through the atmosphere, but the heat finds it difficult to get out, thus generating all the consequences of global warming due to the increase in temperature.
This air pollution, caused by the increase in carbon dioxide, is really an imbalance in the proportion of gases that compose the atmosphere. “If men break this balance by releasing, for example, the carbon dioxide contained in fossil fuels, nature tends to regulate itself towards a new balance, through altering the one that existed” 1. Actually, more air pollution will cause an increase in global warming and with it, the results that we are already seeing: an attempt of the earth to regain its natural balance.
1.Cambios en la atmósfera que alteran el equilibrio de la Tierra por Juana Fernández en Vida universitaria de la Universidad de Navarra.