Atmospheric Systems and Societies

Study and revision resources

Fig 6.1: Atmospheric energy balance

energy balance
Fig 6.1: Atmospheric energy balance

The Energy Balance

The earths atmosphere is an open system, receiving energy from both the sun and the earth. Energy is also lost out out to space. Sensible heat transfer is heat energy transferred between the surface and air when there is a difference in temperature between them. Latent heat transfer is the energy used to cause a transformation from water to water vapour (evaporation).


  1. Describe in your own words the factors that maintain a general equilibrium in atmospheric temperatures.
  2. Research and define what the albedo rate is?
  3. Describe how changes in the albedo rate will affect the energy balance.
  4. Describe how changes in the amount of cloud might affect the energy balance
Video 1.

The Structure of the Atmosphere


  1. Watch the video 6.2 and read this page.
  2. Briefly describe the main atmospheric layers and why the temperature changes in the different layers.
Fig 3.7: OECD Aims

The Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse effect is a natural process that warms the planet.

Some of the radiation from the sun is absorbed by Earth's surface (see Figure 6.1). As the surface heats, it emits long wave radiation (infrared) toward the atmosphere. Some of this long wave radiation is absorbed by greenhouse gases which include carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), tropospheric ozone (O3), and water vapor (H2O). Each molecule of greenhouse gas becomes energized by the long wave radiation and then emit long wave radiation in all directions, some toward the Earth, warming the planet and increasing Earth's temperature.

The greenhouse effect is essential to sustain life on earth.

The Enhanced Greenhouse Effect

This is the process of human activity significantly increasing the greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, leading to increasing global temperatures

greenhouse effect
Fig 6.3: The Greenhouse Effect
ozone layer diagram
Fig 6.4: The Ozone Layer

Stratospheric Ozone


  1. Read this National Geographic article.
  2. Why is ozone in the stratoshere considered good ozone?
  3. Which gases deplete the ozone layer?
  4. What negative impacts does increased UV-B radiation have on humans and the environment?
  5. Use the Yale 360 article to answer the following questions:
  6. What is the ozone layer and why is it important?
  7. 3) How do CFCs damage the ozone layer - find out how?
  8. What was the Montreal Protocol (when, where, what)
  9. What is DCM and why are scientist increasingly concerned about it (what, where used, why, how is it reaching the stratosphere)?
  10. What beneficial effects of the Montreal protocol are mentioned?
Fig 6.15: Photochemical smog
Fig 6.15: Inversions and smogs

Troposheric Ozone

ozone layer diagram
Fig 6.5: Ground Level Ozone


  1. Read this Yale 360
  2. Describe the causes of photochemical smogs
  3. Explain why areas with clear skies and sunshine experience smog
  4. Describe the impact of photochemical smog on people
  5. Describe the impact that photochemical smog can have on vegetation
Fig 3.7: What is acid rain?
Fig 3.6: Reducing acid rain and its effects

Acid Deposition


  1. Watch the 2 videos about acid rain and possible solutions.
  2. Describe the approaches an ecocentrist would take towards solving acid rain.
  3. Describe the approaches a technocentrist would take towards solving acid rain.
Acid deposition
Fig 3.7: Acid Deposition diagram
Content for Accordion Panel 4
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