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Acid Rain Facts: What Is Acid Rain And What You Need To Know

Acid Rain Facts - What Is Acid Rain And What You-Need To Know

When you think of pollutants that we produce that cause damage to the atmosphere, smog, carbon dioxide (CO2), and global warming springs to mind. But not all harmful and toxic gases stay in the air...

If the conditions are favorable, a chemical reaction between these harmful gases and natural elements like water moisture in the air, a type of precipitation occurs that is very harmful to both organic and inorganic matter on the surface.

This phenomenon is called acid rain. The term may sound ominous and invoke images of pure acid falling from the sky and eat away at anything it touches. Although the reality is not nearly as horrific, over time, acid rain still causes significant damage to the environment. 

This article examines what acid rain is and how it forms. It then focus on the important facts you need to know about this phenomenon.

Acid Rain Definition

The term "acid rain" sounds pretty self-explanatory. It is not that simple, though, and it is more of an encompassing phrase for types of precipitation with a common characteristic. To establish what precisely acid rain is, the name needs to be more clearly defined.

What Is Acid Rain?

What Is Acid Rain

Acid rain is the umbrella term form any form of precipitation with an unusually high acid level. This phenomenon is the result of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOX) emissions in the atmosphere. 

SOand NOX combine with water, chemicals, and oxygen to form the highly corrosive sulfuric and nitric acids that bind with water that falls in the form of acid rain.

Acid rain (also known as acid deposition), describes the different types of acidic elements that get deposited on objects on the planet's surface.   

Although the term may sound to refer to a form of "rain," it implies all types of precipitation that contain an unusually high percentage of acidity. It includes forms of precipitation like rainfall, snow, hail, mist, and snow.

It is important to note that acid deposition does not only occur in liquid form. It can be categorized into two types. The one is quite familiar, while the second takes place almost unnoticed while potentially causing more damage. They are:

1) Wet Depositions

Acid rain in the form of wet depositions is the most familiar kind to observers. It includes any type of wet, acidic precipitation, like rain, snow, mist, and hail.

In regions with a high percentage of rainfall, this is the most common type of acidic deposition, as sulfuric and nitric acid binds with water in the atmosphere before falling to the ground.

2) Dry Depositions

Regions with very or low or no rainfall are not exempt from acidic depositions. In countries like Egypt and other arid countries, acid deposition can occur in the absence of rain.

Here, acidic particles and gases attach directly to surfaces on the ground, including artificial structures, vegetation, and water bodies.

Dry Deposition

For example, the effect of dry acid depositions on the famous pyramids of Giza has become a real and visible concern for archaeological conservationists in the region.  

When rainfall does occur, water can wash the acid away from the surface and carry it to lakes, dams, and other bodies of water, raising their level of acidity, which can severely affect aquatic life.

Depending on the absence of rainfall, dry acid deposition can account for as much as 20 - 60 percent of the total amount of acid deposition in a specific region.


To understand acid rain, one needs to understand acidity. Acidity is measured on the pH scale, which ranges from 0 to 17. The most acidic part of the scale is 0, the most alkaline 14, while 7 is the neutral value where an element is neither acidic or alkaline.

Natural rainwater has a pH level of approximately 5.6 (due to the carbon dioxide present in rainwater that makes it slightly acidic.) Acid rain, however, has a pH level of 4.2 - 4.4 as a result of the presence of sulfuric or nitric acid in rainwater.

Although acid rain can cause longterm damage to the environment and structures, it is not nearly strong enough to cause harm to humans. (For example, vinegar has a pH level of around 2.2, which not only does not harm our skin but can also be safely digested.)

What Causes Acid Rain?

As mentioned in the previous section, rainwater already has a small level of acidity. It is not strong enough to cause any damage to the environment, though. However, when high levels of sulfuric or nitric acid are present in the atmosphere, it can result in acid rain.

Sulfur dioxide & nitrogen oxide do occur naturally. They are produced by volcanic eruptions and weather phenomena like lightning, and can also be the result of biological processes. But natural processes play a very small part in sulfur dioxide & nitrogen oxide production.

The vast majority of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide present in the atmosphere is the result of the burning of fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil) by humans.

Power Station

The burning of coal to produce electricity is the biggest culprit, closely followed by the emissions from automobiles and heavy industries.

These sources release sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxide (NOX) into the atmosphere. Once in the air, SOand NOX react with water, various chemicals, and oxygen to form sulfuric and nitric acid.

Both sulfuric and nitric acid combines with water and fall to the surface in the form of wet deposition, or the corrosive gas can attach directly to objects on the ground in the form of dry deposition in arid regions.

Acid rain does only occur in regions where the toxic acids originated from. Global winds can carry it over vast distances where they result in acid rain on a different continent.

For example, late in the 20th Century, most of the acid deposition in Norway originated in the United Kingdom from where winds carried it over 900 km (560 miles), causing acid rain to destroy the trout and salmon population in Norwegian lakes.

Effects Of Acid Rain

It is clear that acid rain poses a significant threat to the environment. The biggest impact is on objects on the ground that are exposed to acid deposition over an extended period.

A wide range of organic and artificial objects get adversely affected by acid rain. They can be categorized into three sections:

  1. Effect On Bodies Of Water
  2. Damage To Vegetation
  3. Damage To Structures

To get a better understanding of how each category is affected by acid rain, one needs to examine each one in closer detail:

1) Effect On Bodies Of Water

Acid rain has an adverse effect on rivers, dams, and lakes. The most significant impact is on standing bodies of water, especially lakes, where acidity from various sources builds up in the water. 

Bodies Of Water

Acid buildup in lakes is a result of direct precipitation, which is further accelerated by rivers carrying acidic water into the lakes. A further contribution comes from acid on the surface that gets washed away by rainwater and carried to lakes by overland flow.

This acid buildup has a deadly effect on aquatic life forms, including fish, shellfish, and even insects. It already resulted in the complete elimination of some fish species like the brook trout in some lakes.

(Earlier in this post, we already highlighted the deadly effect of acid rain on Norwegian lakes where trout and salmon were almost completely wiped out from some lakes in the region.)

2) Damage To Vegetation

Acid rain has a severe effect on vegetation, especially tree life in regions that experience high levels of acid deposition.

Although plant life and crops can also be affected, it is easier to control acidity in agricultural fields by adding fertilizer to replenish nutrients and also use limestone to counter the acidity in the soil.

Trees are affected by the acid content in rainwater in different ways:

  • They can strip away the protective layers on tree leaves, causing the damaged leaves unable to photosynthesize.
  • Acid rain can also infiltrate the soil around and below a tree, destroying the minerals and nutrients needed for growth.
  • Finally, acid deposition can also release elements such as aluminum that are toxic to trees and other forms of vegetation.

The damage can be so severe that acid rain can result in the large scale dying of trees within a specific region. The Black Triangle on the German border is a region where the forests in the Jizera Mountains experienced widespread tree death due to heavy industrial activity.  

3) Damage To Structures

Buildings, statues, and other artificially created structures are all affected by weathering over time. Acid rain, though, can significantly speed up the breakdown of some structures. Certain natural stone structures are also vulnerable to the effects of acid rain.

Acid Rain Damage To Structures

Some materials are especially vulnerable to acid deposition and can deteriorate at an accelerated pace when subjected to acid rain. These materials include sandstone, limestone, marble, and a variety of metals.

Objects consisting of these materials can suffer severe deterioration or corrosion over time when it is exposed to acid rain. Gravestones and statues are notable examples of objects that can incur extensive damage due to acid deposition.

Acid Rain Facts

The best way to highlight the characteristics and importance of acid rain is to focus on some key facts about this phenomenon, which is also the subject of this article.

Some of the following points were already mentioned earlier in this post, but the following list will serve to highlight the essential facts and add a few new ones to give you a proper overview of what you need to know about acid rain:

  • Acid rain does not pose any short-term danger to humans since the acid content is too diluted and weak to cause any harm.
  • Long-term exposure to high levels of sulfuric & nitric acid in acid deposition can adversely affect people with underlying conditions like asthma, cancer, and cardiovascular diseases.
  • Acid rain can destroy aquatic life in bodies of water, like dams and lakes, by raising acidity levels in the water to make it uninhabitable.
  • Acid deposition can adversely affect vegetation and destroy large sections of trees by depleting essential nutrition from the soil and removing the protective coating from leaves.
  • Artificial structures, specifically those made of materials like limestone, marble, sandstone, and certain metals, are especially prone to damage and deterioration by acid rain.
  • Acid deposition is not limited to regions where sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide originated from, but global winds can blow the gases for hundreds of miles to cause acid rain in an entirely different location. 
  • Acidity is measured on the pH scale ranging from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic and 14 the most alkaline. Acid rain has a pH level of between 4.2 en 4.4.
  • Acid rain can only be eliminated by dramatically limiting or halting the production of pollutants like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.  
  • Acid deposition does not only occur as a result of precipitation. In arid regions with little rain, dry deposition still occurs in the form of acidic gas or dust settling on surface objects.
  • The phenomenon was discovered as early as the 17th Century, and the term "Acid Rain" was coined by Robert Angus Smith in 1872.
  • The gases responsible for the formation of acid rain also occur naturally in the atmosphere and are produced by processes like volcanic eruptions and lightning.
  • The effects of acid rain can be combated. In agriculture, the effects of acid rain on vegetation are neutralized by adding materials like limestone and adding fertilizer to replenish depleted nutrients.
  • Natural rainwater is also slightly acidic, with a pH level of 5.6 (with seven being neutral). It is due to the presence of carbonic acid in the water. This is still too weak to cause any damage to the environment, though.
  • Acid rain has no smell. Unlike strong acids we are familiar, acid rain is too diluted to have any potent smell. It smells no different than natural rainwater.

These are a summary of some of the key facts about acid rain. There is much more information available about this phenomenon, but this article managed to capture the most relevant information and explanations.

Conclusion

Acid rain sounds scary, and although there almost no short-term danger to both the environment and humans, the longterm effect is quite severe and can harm or even destroy parts of the environment.

Since acid deposition takes such a long time to show damage to objects, it was not that easy to provide adequate protection in time, if possible at all. Fortunately, the cause is now known and governments placed regulations in place to limit the production of acidic gases.

The aim of this post was to highlight the key facts of acid rain. To draw a complete picture of the phenomenon, though, it was necessary first to define what acid rain is, how it gets formed, and what its effect on the environment and humans are.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  following this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

Microclimates: What They Are And How They Form

Microclimates - What They Are And How They Form

If you ever entered a forest from an open country road or drove into a big, highly populated city, and suddenly experienced a noticeable change in temperature and humidity, it is not your imagination.

What you experienced is precisely the subject of this article. In another post on this weather site, the difference between local and regional weather was discussed in detail. (You can read more about the difference between the two atmospheric conditions in this article.)

However, even in a local region with its prevailing weather conditions, you can find even smaller areas with their pockets of unique atmospheric conditions. These conditions are known as microclimates.

It is important to note the term "climate" in "microclimate." As discussed in another article on this site, climate refers to the average weather conditions that are unique to an area, compared to weather, which refers to the atmospheric conditions at any given time.

(You can read more about the difference between Weather and Climate in this article.)

As a result, microclimate refers to atmospheric conditions that prevail within a relatively small space for a sustained period compared to the surrounding weather.

It may start to sound a bit confusing, but will become more understandable as we define microclimate and examine its characteristics and how it forms in more detail. And this is precisely what this article will aim to do.

This post defines what a microclimate is and how it forms. It also looks at some of the different types of microclimates.

Microclimate Definition

When meteorologists discuss regional and national weather conditions, it is only natural to get confused between the two. When one throws "microclimate" into the mix, and it is very easy to become completely overwhelmed.

For this very reason alone it is crucial clearly define a microclimate and its characteristics before discussing it in more detail:

What Is A Microclimate?

What Is A Microclimate?

A microclimate is a unique set of atmospheric conditions within a localized area that differs to varying degrees from the greater surrounding region and its weather conditions.

Although this area may be as small as a few square meters, or several hundred square kilometers in size, it is always contained within the overarching weather conditions of its surroundings.

Microclimates do not only vary in size, but also in the amount it deviates from the surrounding atmosphere. You can also find more than one microclimate in a localized area and sometimes in close proximity to each. 

For example, a city with its heat-absorbing streets and buildings, as well as highly reflective materials like glass and metal, creates a microclimate called an Urban Heat Island with temperatures well above its surroundings. 

It is even possible to find a microclimate within a larger microclimate. In a large city, for example, a park or rooftop gardens can create smaller pockets with their own atmospheric conditions. Central Park in New York City is a perfect example of such a microclimate.

These "green zones" within a larger metropolitan area are increasingly used to counter the heat and greenhouse gases created by large cities. The role vegetation plays in the creation of a microclimate will be discussed in more detail in a later section in this post. 

What Causes A Microclimate?

It is clear that a microclimate occurs under a wide range of circumstances. It also takes place in several localized regions throughout the world.

There are numerous factors that cause microclimates to form. However, there are a few common factors that play a significant part in the creation of a pocket of localized atmospheric conditions. They are:

  1. Physical Terrain (Topography)
  2. Bodies Of Water
  3. Man-made (Artificial) Structures  
  4. Vegetation
  5. Soil Composition

Each one of these factors on its own can have a strong enough effect to create a microclimate. However, by combining some of these factors, a more distinct microclimate that contrasts sharply with the surrounding atmosphere can be created. 

The role each factor plays in the creation of localized atmospheric conditions is best understood by looking at each one individually.

1) Physical Terrain (Topography)

The topography of a region is arguably the most important natural contributor to the formation of a microclimate. It is primarily the shape and the change in altitude of a local surface that is responsible for the creation of microclimates.

Topography

For example, a mountain or large hill can create two distinctly different localized climates in close proximity. In the Northern Hemisphere, the southern slope of a mountain receives a significant amount more sunlight than the northern slope.

As a result, communities living on the southern slope experience a much warmer and generally drier climate throughout the year. You will also find vegetation that flourishes in warm, dry conditions on the south-facing slope.

In contrast, communities living on the northern slopes experience a cooler and often wetter climate. You will also find vegetation adapted to cool (and in many cases shaded and moist) conditions on north-facing slopes.  

(All the above-mentioned conditions depend on variables like the steepness of the slope, latitude, and the overall humidity of the surrounding atmosphere.)

In the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite happens. North-facing slopes receive most of the sunlight throughout the year, while the southern slopes of a mountain experience more shade and a colder climate. 

It is not only a raised terrain like a mountain that can lead to a microclimate. Valleys and low-lying areas experience a cooler climate compared to surrounding regions due to cold, dense air flowing into these and other natural depressions on the earth's surface.

Many more topographical features influence microclimates, but the examples in this section provide ample evidence of the role topography plays in its creation.

2) Bodies Of Water

Bodies of water have a significant impact on the creation of a microclimate. Since water is able to maintain its temperature much longer than the fluctuations experienced by the surrounding surface, it can create a moderate microclimate within more extreme climates.

For example, in large cities and dense urban areas that have their own artificially created warm microclimate (known as an Urban Heat Island), dams and reservoirs create a much cooler environment within the surrounding urban infrastructure.

Bodies Of Water

On a larger scale, bodies of water have a much more significant effect. When you observe large lakes or dams, you'll notice that they create a moderate climate in and around them very similar to those experienced in coastal regions.

Due to their ability to warm more slowly and maintain their heat for a sustained period, large bodies of water like the Great Lakes, create a moderate climate that results in a cooler environment during the summer months and warmer temperatures during the winter.

This microclimate can spread as far as 48 kilometers (30 miles) inland from the shores of these large bodies of water. As is the case with the Great Lakes, if the size of water bodies are large enough, they can even create their own localized weather system. 

3) Man-made (Artificial) Structures

The subject of large artificial structures like big cities and densely-populated urban regions was already touched on earlier in this article. It is actually one of the most visible examples of a microclimate that contrasts sharply with its surroundings.

The infrastructure of a city creates the perfect conditions for a warm environment. Streets, pavements, and concrete buildings absorb and maintain heat from sunlight for very long periods. Reflective surfaces like metal and glass also create an additional buildup of heat.

As a result, cities have a much warmer microclimate than the surrounding atmosphere, which also lasts throughout the year. This phenomenon is better known as the Urban Heat Island, which you can read about in detail in this article.

4) Vegetation

Vegetation can vary dramatically in scale. It can be the size of your back garden, a park in your city, or the size of a vast forest. (For example, the Black Forest in Germany is 6 009 square kilometers or 2320 square miles.)

It means the scale and impact of this microclimate, depend on the size of the area of land covered by vegetation. Regardless of size, though, the overall effect of any percentage of vegetation remains relatively the same.

One effect of vegetation is called evapotranspiration (evaporation and transpiration) process. This process takes place as a result of soil between vegetation, treetops, and plant leaves, releasing moisture into the air. It has a significant cooling effect on the surroundings.

Vegetation

Another effect of vegetation is the shading provided by larger plants and trees, specifically in a park or forest. If trees are closely spaced together, they create a type of canopy that shades the underlying surface and plants.

The shade allows the soil to remain cold and humid. In return, this cools the air above it, which also moves into its immediate surroundings through wind activity. This cold air, combined with sunlight blocked by the canopies, creates a much cooler microclimate.

The cool microclimate, which vegetation provides (as a result of both evapotranspiration & shading), is increasingly used in cities and dense urban environments to offset the heat created by the Urban Microclimate.

5) Soil Composition

Compared to other factors, soil composition does not seem to play such a significant role in the creation of a microclimate. It does, however, have some impact on climate created on a very localized level. 

Soil's capacity to hold water can have a tangible effect on the immediate surroundings as moisture near the surface helps to promote evaporation, which has a cooling effect.

The composition of a soil determines its ability to absorb and maintain moisture. It consists primarily of sand, clay, silt, and dead organic matter.

Soils like sand with large particles and big pores, allow water to drain through it rapidly without being able to maintain any moisture. Clay, on the other hand, has fine particles with small, if any pores, which result in minimal absorption and more surface runoff.

Soil Composition

Soil with the right amount of sand, clay, and organic matter can absorb and maintain moisture. This not only allows water close to the surface to evaporate and cool the atmosphere but also promotes plant growth, which also has a cooling effect on the air.

Soil's ability to absorb or reflect heat from the incoming solar radiation can also result in the creation of unique localized atmospheric conditions and microclimates.

For example, sand, and other loose, dry types of soil also don't absorb heat but reflects most of the incoming solar radiation. As a result, regions like deserts become very hot during the day, but cools rapidly and becomes very cold during the evening.

Conclusion

It is clear that microclimates appear in various regions throughout the world. They vary in size and can have a significant impact on a localized area and also deviate dramatically from the surrounding atmospheric conditions.

Making use of existing microclimates and introducing new ones within existing local regions can have real benefits. It can battle the adverse effects of artificially-created environments (e.g., parks in a large city) and create new zones to be utilized for activities like agriculture.

This article described what a microclimate is and the different ways in which it gets created. It also highlighted the various factors that are determining factors in the formation of these localized pockets of atmospheric conditions.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  following this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

The Effects Of Ozone Layer Depletion

The Effects Of Ozone Layer Depletion

If you are familiar with the term, "the hole in the ozone layer, chances are pretty good that you grew up in the late 1970s and 1980s, as this was the time where almost everyone knew about this growing danger.

For anyone who was too young or not even born when this event occurred, here's a very short recap of what happened.

Early in the 1970s and 1980s, the scientific community became progressively more worried about the potential harmful effects of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) on the ozone layer. It created a "hole" in the ozone layer above Antarctica that was growing at an alarming rate.

These concerns were formally addressed by the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer in 1985. In turn, this convention resulted in the signing of a treaty called the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer 1987.

20th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol

Representatives at the 20th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol in Canada

It was amendments to the Montreal Protocol that resulted in the decision to formally stop the production of CFC's in all developed countries by 1996. 

Subsequent actions lead to the hole in the ozone layer to start shrinking, and reports from NASA in 2019 indicated that it is now the smallest it has ever been.

It is unclear when the damage will be completely repaired, but this is one example of a potentially catastrophic event that was recognized, stopped in time, and even reversed. And all of this due to global recognition and cooperation based on scientific evidence.

You may wonder why this is still such a relevant subject and also continues to receive much attention by meteorological and general scientific communities. There are good reasons for this. The most important being the effects of ozone layer depletion on the planet.

Although this event has been caught in time and reversed, it still needs to be monitored to not let it out of control again. This experience can also serve as a blueprint of how human activities can lead to unintended environmental damage and how they can be addressed.

And this is where this article comes in. The focus of the post will be on the effects of ozone depletion, which will explain why it was addressed with such urgency on a global scale.

To do this, we first need to define what the ozone layer is, as well as its importance to the global environment. The causes of ozone depletion and the hole in the ozone layer will also be examined before we can finally address the potential effects of ozone depletion.

Ozone Layer Definition

Much discussion and debate continued to rage over the ozone layer during the past four decades, with some observers not having a clear idea of what exactly it is. As a result, it is crucial to provide a clear definition first of what precisely the ozone layer is:

What Is The Ozone Layer?

What Is The Ozone Layer?

The ozone layer is a thin blanket of concentrated ozone gas that surrounds the earth at an altitude of approximately 15 - 35 kilometers (9 - 22 miles) in the stratosphere.

It performs the crucial role of absorbing the vast majority (98 percent) of the sun's dangerous ultraviolet light.

Ozone gets created in the stratosphere. As high levels of UV radiation hit an oxygen molecule (O2), it creates a freed oxygen atom. The oxygen atom then combines with an oxygen molecule (O2) to form ozone (O3.)

Ozone also forms primarily over the tropics. High altitude winds then carry the ozone rich air towards the polar regions.

The ozone layer do not just vary in height but also in thickness. It varies throughout the year, but in general is thinner over the equator and thicker over the polar regions.

Importance Of The Ozone Layer

The ozone layer is an extremely thin layer located in the stratosphere. At its highest concentration levels, it is also still only ten parts per million of ozone. Despite its low density, the ozone layer plays an indispensable role in protecting all life on the planet.

It absorbs the vast majority (roughly 98 percent) of all ultraviolet radiation from the sun. (The dangers of this type of radiation will be addressed shortly in the "Effects Of Ozone Layer Depletion" section.)

Ozone (O3) consists of three oxygen atoms and is a relatively unstable molecule. And it is this instability that helps to protect us.

It may sound confusing, but it is both the destruction and reformation of ozone in the stratosphere that protects the earth from UV light. It can be explained as follows.

Solar Radiation

An abundance of oxygen molecules is present in the stratosphere. When ultraviolet light from the sun hits one of these molecules, they cause it to break up into two separate oxygen atoms.

A single oxygen atom (O1) is very unstable and quickly finds an oxygen molecule (O2) to bind with, which results in the formation of an ozone molecule (O3). And it is this molecule that protects the earth from UV radiation.

In summary: Oxygen Atom (O1) + Oxygen Molecule (O2) = Ozone (O3)

Importantly, when UV light hits an ozone molecule, it absorbs the radiation and converts it into heat instead of allowing it to pass through.

During this process, though, an oxygen atom gets stripped away again, leaving an oxygen molecule (O2) and a single oxygen atom (O1).

In summary: Ozone (O3& UV Exposure → Oxygen Atom (O1+ Oxygen Molecule (O2) 

The simultaneous creation and destruction of ozone is a natural process but creates a fine balance where the amount of ozone produced is equal to the amount of ozone destroyed. 

This process is also known as the Leaky Bucket Theory. If you compare the ozone layer to a bucket with a hole in it, the bucket will remain full as long as the amount of ozone leaking out (being destroyed) remains the same as the amount of ozone added (newly created.)

It is precisely for this reason that ozone-depletion substances, which caused more ozone to be destroyed than can be newly created, resulted in a huge imbalance and the resulting depletion of the ozone layer.

In turn, increasing amounts of dangerous ultraviolet radiation were able to reach the planet's surface. Fortunately, the Montreal Protocol addressed the alarming rate of depletion, and the ozone layer is recovering.

But this is all evidence of just how delicate this balance is and how vital it is to be maintained to allow the ozone layer to continue protecting against UV radiation.

Causes Of Ozone Layer Depletion

There are a number of substances in the atmosphere that causes ozone breakdown or depletion. They are known as ozone-depleting substances (ODS), which can occur naturally or have an artificial origin.

Hydroxyl (OH·) and nitric oxide radicals (NO·) are both occurring naturally in the atmosphere and are highly reactive, meaning they are short-lived but can easily react with another substance. In the stratosphere, this results in the interaction and breakdown of ozone.

The biggest cause of ozone depletion, though, are the man-made chemicals that were released into the atmosphere during the late 20th Century. Of these chemicals, chlorine and bromine are by far the biggest threats.

These substances are created by chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and other gases that were used as coolants in commercial appliances like refrigerators and air-conditioners.

Ozone Depletion Diagram

Diagram illustrating how ozone-depleting substances are destroying ozone

Once chlorofluorocarbons and hydrochlorofluorocarbons reach the stratosphere, they get exposed to ultraviolet radiation, which breaks them down into chlorine or bromine. It is in this pure form of these substances that is able to destroy ozone on a large scale.

These chemicals are able to break down ozone by stripping away an ozone atom. Chlorine, for example, destroys ozone by reacting with and breaking the ozone molecule apart to form chlorine monoxide and oxygen. 

The simple equation looks as follows: Cl + O3 = ClO + O2

It is both the capacity and lifespan of chlorine and bromine that make them so destructive. For example, one chlorine atom is able to destroy 100 000 ozone molecules. Bromine is up to 40 times more damaging than chlorine, but there is much less of it in the atmosphere.

Chlorine can also remain in the stratosphere for up to 100 years and bromine for up to approximately 65 years. These long lifespans allow these ozone-depleting substances to remain and continue to disrupt ozone levels for a sustained period. 

Effects Of Ozone Layer Depletion

The delicate balance between the creation and destruction of ozone is crucial. The depletion of ozone in the stratosphere during the late 20th Century as a result of zone-depleting substances resulted in severe disruption of this balance.

The large-scale destruction of ozone by ozone-depleting substances in the stratosphere during the last Century resulted in more of the gas being destroyed than new ones created.

This imbalance led to an alarming decline in the amount of ozone in the stratosphere, with weaknesses known as "holes in the ozone layer" appearing over regions like Antarctica.

The amount of ultraviolet radiation that will be allowed through if the zone layer is compromised will have devastating and deadly consequences to all life on the planet.

Ultraviolet light can be divided into three types of radiation:

  1. UV-A Radiation 
  2. UV-B Radiation
  3. UV-C Radiation

Of these three, UV-C radiation is by far the most dangerous. It can cause severe skin burns in a short time, lead to skin cancer, and also cause permanent eye damage, which includes conditions like cataracts. Fortunately, the ozone layer blocks 100 percent of all UV-C light. 

UV-B radiation is less dangerous, but can still cause skin burns, and is associated with certain types of skin cancers like carcinoma. Again, the ozone layer is able to block approximately 90 percent of all UV-B radiation.

UV-A radiation is the only type of UV light that penetrates to the surface without interruption from the ozone layer. It was considered a harmless form of radiation, but recent studies reveal long-term exposure could lead to premature skin aging and cancers like Melanoma.

The point of this breakdown of ultraviolet radiation and the potential impact of its different components on human beings is to highlight just how devastating the effect of ozone depletion will be.

Effects Of Ozone Layer Depletion

Just to put this in context, an article published in National Geographic in April 2019, stated that without the Montreal Protocol, "the U.S. would have seen an additional 280 million cases of skin cancer, 1.5 million skin cancer deaths, and 45 million cataracts—and the world would be at least 25 percent hotter."

And the impact on the rest of our environment wasn't even focused on in this section. For example, ultraviolet radiation (especially UV-B light) can also damage plants on a cellular level, alter their DNA, and can even lead to plant death. 

It is also important to note that animal life is also impacted in very much the same way as human life by the effects of ultraviolet radiation. Even freshwater and marine life do not escape the effects of UV light.

In summary, it is safe to state that all life on earth will be adversely affected by ozone depletion and the resulting increased ultraviolet radiation.

Conclusion

Throughout this article, especially during the last few sections, the importance of the ozone layer was highlighted, as well as how crucial it is for the delicate balance that keeps the ozone in place and protects against the vast majority of UV radiation, to be maintained.

It is important to note that, although the majority of damage done to the ozone layer by ozone-depleting substances has been stopped and even reversed, the ozone layer remains fragile and is only estimated to be fully restored by approximately 2050.

The ozone layer also remains under constant attack from existing and new threats, with new forms of chemicals released into the atmosphere, as well as global warming and climate change evolving, which may all have longterm effects on ozone that has yet to determined. 

The focus of this article was to explain what the ozone layer is and just how crucial it is for the protection of all life on the planet. It also highlighted the different causes of ozone depletion and the effect it can have on the environment and human, animal, and plant life.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  following this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

Mother Of Pearl Clouds: Explaining The Appearance Of Nacreous Clouds

Mother Of Pearl Clouds - Explaining The Appearance Of Nacreous Clouds

As one publication stated, "once seen are never forgotten." I am referring to a rare, unique, as well as breathtaking phenomenon that occasionally occurs in the skies above the Arctic Regions.

This phenomenon is called mother of pearl clouds, a sporadic cloud formation that appears in regions within and bordering the Arctic Circle. These clouds are more commonly known as nacreous clouds.

What makes nacreous clouds so unique is not only their rare occurrence but also the wide array of colors they display that has a uniquely surreal look to them. It is from their unique color pattern that the name "mother of pearl clouds" originated.

(The reason for the "mother of pearl" association and resulting name will be explained in more detail later in this article.)

For the remainder of this article, the name "nacreous clouds" will be used to describe this phenomenon. Wherever necessary, though, the term "mother of pearl clouds" will be brought into the discussion to explain the association or draw a correlation.

In this article, we will focus on what nacreous clouds are, how they form, and what their characteristics are.

Nacreous Clouds Definition

From the introduction alone, it has become crystal clear that a nacreous cloud occurrence is a very unique and awe-inspiring phenomenon. It begs the question as to what they are and how they form.

Before looking at their origin and formation, one first needs to establish a clear and concise definition of what nacreous clouds are:

What are Nacreous Clouds?

What Are Nacreous Clouds

Nacreous clouds are polar stratospheric clouds that occur high in the stratosphere moments after sunset in regions close to or in the Arctic Circle.

They are recognized by their unique display of iridescent colors and patterns. They are also known for their rare appearances, which are also mostly limited to polar regions.

Nacreous clouds are high-level clouds that occur in the stratosphere over polar regions at heights of 15 000 – 25 000 meters (49 000 – 82 000 ft). They are officially known as polar stratospheric clouds.

This phenomenon can be best observed within the first two hours after sunset when rays of light illuminate the clouds from below the horizon. The resulting iridescent colors produced are a product of ice crystals scattering and refracting the light as it reaches the cloud.

Iridescence is an optical occurrence that causes objects to display vivid rainbow-like colors. In the case of nacreous clouds, the colors can vary from luminous and vivid, to the familiar pastel colors that are so unique and contributes to the surreal effect of this phenomenon.

Why Are They Called Mother Of Pearl Clouds?

The word "nacreous" in nacreous clouds is derived from the word "nacre." Nacre is the substance responsible for the iridescent rainbow and pastel colors known as "mother of pearl" found in certain mollusk shells.

In jewelry, a pearl starts forming in a mollusk shell as nacre starts building up around a small particle like a grain of sand. As the pearl grows, the inside of the shell also gets covered with nacre.

The unique iridescent colors of the inner shell covered with this substance closely resemble nacreous clouds. Hence the subsequent naming of the meteorological phenomenon as "mother of pearl clouds."

This section gave a clear explanation of what nacreous clouds are, their characteristics, and why they display their unique "mother of pearl" colors. The focus should now shift to how these cloud phenomena form, which we will address in the next section.

How Nacreous Clouds Form

As previously stated in the definition, nacreous clouds form at high altitudes, approximately 15 000 – 25 000 meters (49 000 – 82 000 ft) above the surface in the lower stratosphere. It is these high altitudes that allow them to remain illuminated for some period after sunset.

The clouds also need to be illuminated from below for iridescence to occur, which means mother of pearl clouds can only be observed after sunset when the sun is between 1 - 6 degrees below the horizon.

Mother Of Pearl Clouds

Nacreous clouds also form under very low temperatures. The clouds can only form once the air temperature drops below -78° Celsius. It is also part reason why the phenomenon is mostly observed in Arctic regions, which experience these low temperatures.

The air over the polar regions is normally very dry, making cloud formation a very rare occurrence. When clouds do form at high altitudes above the surface, the ice crystals in nacreous clouds are much smaller than those that form in normal cloud formations.

It is these smaller ice crystals that allow the sunlight to be scattered and refracted in such a way to produce the vibrant iridescent colors that are so unique to this occurrence.  

During the day, nacreous clouds may resemble pale Cirrus clouds that may be almost unnoticeable. Once the sun dips below the horizon, however, the clouds start to display bright luminous colors.

As the sun continues to sinks further below the horizon, the bright luminous clouds slowly change into a mixture of pink, green, and mostly pastel-colored formations, which contributes to the the surreal effect that is so unique to nacreous clouds.

Unlike most other fast-moving cloud formations that occur much lower in the atmosphere, the aptly named mother of pearl clouds also seems to remain stationary in the sky as a result of their great height.

Conclusion

Nacreous (or mother of pearl) clouds are rare occurrences that appear almost exclusively over the Arctic regions and are seen by very few people in selected areas as a result.

Yet, their appearance and surreal color displays are so unique and captivating that they are better known than there rarity suggests, especially in meteorological circles.

This article examined and explained what nacreous clouds are, their characteristics, and how they are formed. It also described why they are called mother of pearl clouds and described the shared connection between the two phenomena.  

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  following this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

Crepuscular Rays: What They Are And How They Form

Crepuscular Rays - What They Are And How They Form

A sunset by itself can be one of nature's most breathtaking displays. But under the right conditions, the appearance of different shades of sunlight radiating through clouds can appear to be almost surreal.

This stunning display of light and color has been witnessed through thousands of generations across the globe and is subject of countless photographs, paintings, and other forms of art.

Due to its mystical or supernatural appearance, this phenomenon has been adopted and used by different religions and cultures to portray a form of higher power or divine presence. It is no wonder they are commonly referred to as "god rays."

However, these "magical" beams of sunlight are far from supernatural. They are called crepuscular rays and have a scientific and logical explanation.

This article illustrates what precisely crepuscular rays are, how they form, and what their characteristics are.

Crepuscular Rays Definition

As just stated, the appearance of these "god rays" has a perfectly logical and scientific explanation. But before we take a more in-depth look at its formation, one first needs to define what precisely crepuscular rays are:

What Are Crepuscular Rays?

What Are Crepuscular Rays

Crepuscular rays are shades of light that radiates up from the sun through the gaps and edges of clouds into the early evening sky during sunset.

Although it usually occurs during or after sunset and shines through patches of clouds, crepuscular rays can also appear when sunlight travels through different objects and also appear during different parts of the day under the right conditions.

Although crepuscular rays can technically appear throughout the day, the word "crepuscular" originated from the word "crepusculum," which translates to "twilight." As a result, this term is mostly used when rays of light shine up from the horizon during sunset.

(Not to be confused with a sunbeam that shines through a break in the clouds from the sun's elevated position during the day, even though they may be theoretically the same type of occurrence.)

Another reason why crepuscular rays are more noticeable during the late afternoon and early evening are that the beams of sunlight are most visible when there is a strong contrast between light and darkness. These conditions are optimal during sunset.

Although crepuscular rays seem to diverge from the sun and grow larger as they move further away, they actually run parallel to each and other and remain the same width.

The reason for this illusion is a result of observers viewing the rays from a perspective point. The same way a long road or railway track seems small at a distance and grows larger, the closer they come, the same way crepuscular rays seem to diverge away from the sun.

The rays that gets emitted through the clouds during sunset usually have an orange glow. It occurs as a result of the long path the light has to travel through the atmosphere. Particles in the air scatter blue light, while more yellow and red light is allowed to pass through.

How Crepuscular Rays Form

When the sun is near or just below the horizon, it's rays travels up in the darkening sky. When scattered cloud formations are present low in the sky, beams of sunlight travels through gaps and across the edges these clouds.

Crepuscular Rays

The reason that the rays of light are visible at all is that particles of dust and small droplets are present in the atmosphere, especially closer to the horizon. These particles scatter and refract the light passing through them, making it visible to the naked eye.

As crepuscular rays pass through the clouds, different shades of colors create the appearance of multiple beams of light which is as a result of the density of the medium through which they travel.

Since clouds have different levels of density, it allows different percentages of light through. The clear openings and areas of least density allow rays of light to shine through relatively unaffected, and they appear brighter as a result.

Areas where the cloud cover blocks a larger percentage of light, the rays that are allowed to shine through, appear much darker. This combination of light and dark parts of the same light extending into the sky, create the appearance of multiple rays with spectacular effect.

Anticrepuscular Rays: The Opposite Side Of The Same Phenomenon

Anticrepuscular Rays

At the same time that crepuscular rays occur, a similar phenomenon sometimes appears on the opposite horizon. When you turn your back to the sun, you may see dimmer but similar beams of light converging onto the opposite horizon.

These beams of light are called anticrepuscular rays. They are the same rays of light that originated from the sunset as crepuscular rays.

The bands of light from the crepuscular rays streak right across the sky until they converge toward the vanishing point on the opposite horizon.

Unlike crepuscular rays that diverge away from the sun, anticrepuscular rays converge towards the antisolar point (the position directly opposite that of the sun from the observer's point of view) on the opposite horizon.

Different Names, Similar Phenomenon

As already briefly touched on during the introduction, crepuscular rays have many different names. Some simply are the name different cultures give to the same phenomenon, while others are rooted in religion or history.

The following list of synonyms is just a small sample of the different names given to crepuscular rays:   

  • God Rays: The name originated from religion, specifically Christianity, where the rays are commonly used to depict a divine presence. The effect and its description are also popular among artists and illustrators.
  • Jacob's Ladder: The name is derived from the Old Testament in The Bible, where Jacob had a dream of a staircase extending all the way to Heaven.
  • Sun Drawing Water: This synonym is based on an old Greek belief system that the rays of sunlight pulls water into the atmosphere.
  • Ropes of Maui: This name is based on the tale of the mythical Maui Potiki, who tied ropes to the sun to make the days last longer.

Other names include Buddha rays, light shafts, Tyndall rays, and sunbursts. These are just a few examples, but gives a good indication of just how widespread and significant crepuscular rays are across countries and religions.

Conclusion

As breathtaking and surreal crepuscular rays may seem to be, this post clearly illustrated how every aspect of its appearance has a perfectly logical and scientific explanation. This should not detract in any way from what is one of nature's most beautiful displays. 

This article illustrated what precisely crepuscular rays are, how they form, and what their characteristics are. It also had a look at how widespread and significant this phenomenon is, by looking at the various names given to it by different cultures and throughout history.

Feel free to leave any comments, questions, or suggestions you may have. Your opinion is valued and will be attended to as soon as possible.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  clicking on this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel


What Is A Continental Glacier And How Does It Form?

What Is A Continental Glacier And How Does It Form

The gigantic bodies of thick, dense ice that make up the world's glaciers contain almost seventy percent of the total amount of fresh water on the planet.

The existence of these slow-moving mountains of ice plays a vital role in the continued existence of human life on a planet that keeps on getting warmer and drier. And in more than one way...

They are an invaluable source of fresh water that can be utilized for future use. Also, the volume of ice combined in all glaciers across the world is large enough to cause a sea-level rise of 70 meters (230 feet) if they should melt. It will be devastating to all coastal regions.

Alpine Glacier

When you think of glaciers, impressive large masses of ice carving their way down mountainsides along valleys will spring to mind. However, unlike alpine glaciers, 99 percent of all glacier ice can be found in continental glaciers.

The reason why continental glaciers are not that well-known is simple. Most people are just unaware that they exist, as they are not as spectacular as their mountainous cousins, and are also so large that they are seen as part of the underlying landmass.

This article explores what a continental glacier is and how it forms. It also looks at its significance and impact on a global scale.

Glacier Definition

As you may have concluded from the introduction, continental glaciers are just one of the two major forms of glaciers. Both glaciers have many characteristics in common, though.

Before one can focus on continental glaciers, it is important to establish a concise definition of a glacier in general:  

What Is A Glacier?

What Is A Glacier

A glacier is an accumulation of a large dense mass of ice over time that slowly moves under its own weight and gravity over land.

All forms of glaciers can be classified into two main categories, namely continental and alpine glaciers.

Continental and alpine glaciers can both be divided into smaller subcategories. Alpine glaciers consist of hanging, mountain, and valley glaciers. Continental glaciers can also be divided into ice sheets and ice fields.

Of the two main categories of glaciers, alpine glaciers are the most recognizable and well-known, and as far as the vast majority of casual observers concerned, the only type of glacier in existence.

Continental glaciers, however, contain approximately 99 percent of all glacier ice, which makes them significantly more important from an environmental perspective. 

The remainder of this post will focus specifically on continental glaciers, what they are, and how they occur.

Continental Glacier Definition

As already mentioned, continental glaciers are not nearly as well-known as their more visible and spectacular alpine counterparts. In fact, most observers are not even aware of their existence due to their size and the fact that they cover entire landmasses.

Only by examining them in more detail, will one be able to form a clear picture of just how significant and essential continental glaciers are.

Before delving into the details of their formation and characteristics, one first needs to get a clear and concise definition of what continental glacier is: 

What Is A Continental Glacier?

What Is A Continental Glacier

Continental glaciers are vast, expansive bodies of dense ice that covers large and relatively flat areas of land.

These glaciers are dome-shaped with the thickest part located in the center of the mass, from where it slowly spreads outwards in all directions under its own weight and gravity.

Although continental glaciers' sheer size dwarf alpine glaciers, they can also be divided into two main categories according to their dimensions:

  1. Ice Sheets
  2. Ice Fields (Ice Caps)

1) Ice Sheets

A glacier is categorized as an ice sheet when its size exceeds 50 000 square kilometers (19 000 square miles). Only two ice sheets exist in the world, namely the Antarctic and Greenland Ice Sheets.

The Antarctic Ice Sheet covers 98 percent of the continent's landmass. It is almost 14 million square kilometers (5.4 million square miles) in size. At its thickest point, the glacier ice is 4.7 kilometers (2.9 miles) deep with an average thickness of 2.16 kilometers (1.34 miles.)

The Greenland Ice Sheet covers around 80 percent of the total landmass. It has a size of 1.71 million square kilometers (660 000 square miles). The glacial ice has a maximum depth over 3 kilometers (1.9 miles), with an average thickness of 2.13 kilometers (1.32 miles.)

The sheer size and thickness of the glacier ice on these two landmasses emphasize the importance and global impact of continental glaciers. 

2) Ice Caps (Ice Fields)

A glacier is categorized as an ice field or ice cap when its size is less than 50 000 square kilometers (19 000 square miles). These glaciers are dome-shaped and usually form on top of mountains or volcanoes.

Ice Cap

Although these glaciers are significantly smaller than the two major ice sheets, they occur in numerous locations throughout the world, and some of them are big enough to cover entire mountain ranges.

Apart from Australia, which is the only continent without any glaciers, ice caps can be found on every continent on the planet. Examples include:

Africa: The Furtwangler Glacier on Mount Kilimanjaro with a size of 11 000 square meters (120,000 square feet).

Antarctica: Although it is classified as an ice sheet due to its size, it has most of the characteristics of an ice cap and is often referred to as the Antarctic Ice Cap.

North America: The Barnes Ice Cap in Canada with a size of approximately 6 000 square kilometers (2 300 square miles).

South America: The Quelcaya Ice Cap in Peru with a size of 42.8 square kilometers (16.5 square miles).

Europe: The Vatnajökull Glacier in Iceland with a size of roughly 8 200 square kilometers (3 166 square miles).

Asia: The Grigoriev Ice Cap in Kyrgyzstan with a relatively small size of 8 square kilometers (3.08 square miles).

These glaciers are just a few examples of thousands of ice caps spread out throughout the world. In total, there are approximately 198 000 glaciers in the world, of which ice caps make up a substantial percentage.

How A Continental Glacier Form

A continental glacier, like an alpine glacier, takes approximately 100 to 150 years to form. It is just a rough estimate of the time it takes for the basic structure of the ice mass (that forms a glacier) to be established.

Glaciers can only form in regions where it is cold enough for snow to retain its solid form all year round. It allows for the formation of a glacier over a number of years.

As fresh snow falls, snow from the previous season is buried. The weight of the fresh snow forces the layer below to recrystallize, forming larger grains while forcing out some of the air between them during this process.

Continental Glacier Formation

Over time the compacted snow turns into firn, which is a transitory state that occurs before compressed snow finally turns into glacier ice. As new layers of snow continue to fall, the ice crystals keep on getting more dense, with the majority of air forced out between them.

When enough layers accumulated above it, the pressure becomes so high that the large, dense ice crystals compress into glacier ice, with the little air left, becoming trapped inside the ice mass.

A soon as the body of ice becomes too dense and heavy to maintain its shape, it slowly starts to move and spread outwards in all directions. 

Large continental glaciers, called ice sheets, can grow to essentially cover entire landmasses, as is the case with Greenland and Antarctica.

Conclusion

They may not capture the limelight as often as their glamorous Alpine cousins, but as this article illustrated, continental glaciers are more important to the global environment and human survival than all other glaciers combined. 

Since climate change is threatening the life of all glaciers, causing them to retreat worldwide, the melting of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets is a massive cause of concern.

The reason for this concern was clearly highlighted by this post's emphasis on the size, volume, and impact of these massive bodies of ice.  

This article illustrated what a continental glacier is and how it is formed. It also briefly touched on its importance and impact on the environment on a global scale.

Feel free to leave any comments, questions, or suggestions you may have. Your opinion is valued and will be attended to as soon as possible.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  following this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

What Phase Is The Moon In During A Solar Eclipse? Examining The Difference Between A Solar And Lunar Eclipse

The Difference Between A Solar And Lunar Eclipse

The phenomena known as a solar and lunar eclipse are arguably one of the most anticipated and well-known celestial events. Every year in different locations worldwide, people experience this visual display. 

Observations of these almost "supernatural" events date back thousands of years and have been documented as early as 1137 BC in Chinese literature. (A book from the Zhou Dynasty called Zhou-Shu described what is believed to be a lunar eclipse.)

Through the centuries, many cultures and religions attached a large amount of symbolism and importance to these phenomena. Their significance is so widespread across different civilizations through the ages that it justifies a large separate post, but is still worth noting.

The question in the heading of this article "What Phase Is The Moon In During A Solar Eclipse"  is just one of many frequently-asked questions raised when it comes to a solar or lunar eclipse.

It also illustrates just how involved both the moon and sun are in the occurrence of a solar as well as a lunar eclipse.

And this is what this article will focus on: Explain what a solar eclipse is, what a lunar eclipse is, and how they differ from each other. It will also describe how each process takes place and also look at the effect they have on the weather.

Solar Eclipse and Lunar Eclipse Definition

Before we answer the question posed in this article's title, or even start to examine how a solar and lunar eclipse occurs, we need to establish a clear definition of each event.

Solar Eclipse Definition

Of the two events, a solar eclipse is arguably the most dramatic and spectacular, with the effect of day turning into night within a couple of minutes, only to return to daylight a few minutes later. Not to mention the spectacle of viewing the sun during this event.

(Needless to say, special care should be taken when looking at the sun during a solar eclipse, including special glasses or a dark piece of film.)

Although most of us already experienced a total or partial solar eclipse at some point, it is crucial to understand what exactly this phenomenon is before we can begin to describe how this event occurs:

What Is A Solar Eclipse?

What Is A Solar Eclipse

A solar eclipse occurs when the moon's path crosses between the earth and the sun, causing it to cast a shadow on a specific part of the earth's surface.

From a vantage point on earth that falls within this shadow, the sun can be seen as partially or totally blocked out by the moon, resulting in the light turning from dusk to darkness.

The most spectacular type of solar eclipse is called a total solar eclipse, which occurs when the moon completely blocks out the sun. This form of solar eclipse occurs very rarely.

A total solar eclipse can be viewed from some viewpoint on the planet appropriately every 18 months. However, it estimated that the time it would take for a total solar eclipse to occur at the exact same location will be roughly between 360 and 410 years.

It is rare since the sun, moon, and earth must be in complete alignment, and the moon must be at the right distance between the sun and earth to completely block out the sun.  

The process through which a solar eclipse occurs will be explained in more detail in an upcoming section within this post.

Lunar Eclipse Definition

It may not be as spectacular as a solar eclipse or have such an impact on atmospheric conditions back on earth. However, a lunar eclipse remains a rare and special event that can be visually just as captivating under the right conditions.

Before examining exactly how this event occurs, one needs to establish a clear definition of a lunar eclipse to completely understand this phenomenon first: 

What Is A Lunar Eclipse?

What Is A Lunar Eclipse

A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth's path crosses between the sun and the moon, causing the shadow of the earth to block the sunlight reaching the moon.

Depending on its position, the planet's shadow can result in a partial or total eclipse of the moon.

Like a solar eclipse, the most impressive and visually captivating form of lunar eclipse is a total lunar eclipse. It occurs very seldom, though, approximately once every 2.5 years.

Like a solar eclipse, a total lunar eclipse is only possible when the sun, moon, and earth is incomplete or nearly perfect alignment. Partial lunar eclipses, however, are a much more common occurrence.

Unlike a solar eclipse which can only be viewed from specific a location on the planet's surface that falls within the moon shadow, it is possible to observe a lunar eclipse from almost anywhere on earth.

With the basic definition of each phenomenon covered, attention can turn to the different processes through which a solar and lunar eclipse occur.

How A Solar And Lunar Eclipse Occur

From the description of both a solar and lunar eclipse, it is clear that they have a lot in common. Both involve the sun, earth, and moon. The three celestial bodies also need to be near perfect alignment for each phenomenon to occur.

But there are also are distinct differences between the two events, which we will look examine more closely by looking at each process separately.    

How Does A Solar Eclipse Occur?

As the moon orbits the earth, the earth rotates on its axis, and both orbits the sun, one can start to understand why a solar eclipse does not occur that often.

Add to this equation the fact that the moon orbits the earth at a different angle and speed than the earth rotates and revolves around the sun and it's surprising that a solar eclipse is possible to take place at all.

But as most of you know, it does happen. A total solar eclipse can be viewed from some location on the planet appropriately every 18 months, as already mentioned.

How A Solar Eclipse Occurs

The Process Through Which A Total Solar Eclipse Occur. Click On Image For A Larger View.

During this period the moon passes between the sun and the earth. As it crosses between the two, its casts a shadow on the earth's surface.

Since the earth rotates, this shadow travels across the planet's surface, creating what is called the path of totality.

A total solar eclipse can only be seen by anyone that is within the path of totality. If you are not located within this path but still relatively closely, you will be able to observe a partial solar eclipse.

All solar eclipses only last for a few minutes, with some exceptions where the total length of an eclipse can exceed seven, although this is very rare.

At this point we come to the question asked in the title of this article:

What Phase Is The Moon In During A Solar Eclipse?

A solar eclipse can only occur during New Moon (when the entire moon is covered in darkness and not visible from the earth's surface.) 

A total solar eclipse can be seen within the moon's dark inner shadow (called the umbra.) A partial solar eclipse can be observed within the earth's lighter outer shadow (called the penumbra).

Types Of Solar Eclipses

Depending on the alignment and distance of the moon between the sun and earth, different forms of solar eclipses can occur. There are four primary types of solar eclipses:

1) Partial Solar Eclipse:

A partial solar eclipse occurs when only a certain percentage of the sun gets eclipsed by the moon. It mostly occurs under one of two different circumstances.

The first type of partial eclipse occurs when the position from where the event is observed, falls outside the path of totality.

It means that any observer outside the moon's umbra (dark inner shadow) will only be able to view a part of the sun to be eclipsed.

The second type of partial eclipse occurs when the earth, moon, and sun is not completely aligned. It causes the moon's shadow to miss the surface of the planet.

As a result, the only type of solar eclipse that can be observed in these conditions will be a partial one. 

2) Annular Eclipse

Annular Solar Eclipse

An annular solar eclipse occurs when the diameter of the moon appears smaller than the diameter of the sun and is unable to block it out completely, leaving the outer surface of the sun exposed.

As a result, the sun's outer surface appears like a bright ring in the sky. This form of solar eclipse takes place when the moon is at its furthest point from the earth in its orbital path.

3) Hybrid Solar Eclipse

Also known as an annular-total eclipse, this eclipse occurs when the phenomenon shifts from an annular to a total solar eclipse and vice versa during a single event as it travels along the path of totality on the surface of the planet.

Like a total solar eclipse, this form of eclipse is also only possible when the earth, moon, and sun are in perfect alignment. It is also the rarest of all eclipses and makes up only 5 percent of all solar eclipses combined.  

4) Total Solar Eclipse

The most well-known of all eclipses is the total solar eclipse. It occurs when the earth, moon, and sun are in complete alignment, and the moon covers the whole surface of the sun, with just the sun's bright corona (the sun's atmosphere) visible.

In able for observers to view a total solar eclipse, they need to be in the path of totality, described earlier in this post. 

How Does A Lunar Eclipse Occur?

The same orbit of the moon around the earth, and both celestial bodies' rotation around the sun that results in a solar eclipse, is also responsible for a lunar eclipse.

In able for a lunar eclipse to occur, the moon must be in its Full Moon Phase (with the whole surface of the moon illuminated.)

The sun, moon, and earth must also be in perfect or near-perfect alignment to allow a lunar eclipse to take place. (The same conditions required for a solar eclipse to occur.)

How A Lunar Eclipse Occurs

The Process Through Which A Total Lunar Eclipse Occur. Click On Image For A Larger View.

In the case of a lunar eclipse, however, the earth passes between the sun and moon, casting its shadow over the moon's surface.

Unlike a solar eclipse, which can only be observed from a specific location on earth, as already stated, a lunar eclipse can be viewed from almost any region on the planet.

Depending on the exact positioning of the earth, different forms of lunar eclipses can occur. They can be categorized into three primary types of eclipses:

1) Penumbral Lunar Eclipse:

This type of eclipse occurs when the earth's penumbra (light outer shadow) is cast over the moon, causing a slight darkening of the moon surface, which is sometimes invisible to the naked eye.

2) Partial Lunar Eclipse:

The form of eclipse where a specific portion of the moon falls within the earth's umbra (dark inner shadow). It creates the effect of a particular sized "bite being taken out of the moon."

3) Central Lunar Eclipse: 

The type of eclipse most of us are familiar with where the sun, earth, and moon are perfectly aligned, causing the earth's shadow to block out any light from the sun completely.


The only light that the moon receives during a total lunar eclipse is the faint light refracted from the surface of earth. 

As a large amount of blue light is scattered while travelling through the atmosphere, it gives the moon a reddish tint. The phenomenon better known as the "Blood Moon" is the result of this process.

Difference Between A Solar And Lunar Eclipse

Throughout this article, we already briefly touched on the majority of differences between a solar and lunar eclipse. The following list was created to provide a summary of the primary differences between the two events:

  • A solar eclipse occurs when the moon travels between the earth and the sun, while solar eclipse occurs when the earth's path crosses between the moon and sun.
  • A solar eclipse is only visible from a specific location on earth at any given time, while a lunar eclipse can be observed from almost any point on the planet's surface.
  • For a solar eclipse to occur, a New Moon must be present, while a lunar eclipse occurs during a Full Moon.
  • A lunar eclipse does not affect the weather, while a solar eclipse has a small and temporary, but noticeable effect.
  • A solar eclipse is observed during the day, while a lunar eclipse is best viewed at night.
  • A lunar eclipse occurs more frequently than a solar eclipse.
  • Special care should be taken when viewing a solar eclipse to avoid damage to the eyes, while a lunar eclipse can be safely viewed with the naked eye.
  • A solar eclipse has a much more significant effect on human activity since it causes a sudden onset of darkness during the middle of the day while a lunar eclipse gets observed during the night when it is already dark.

There are other subtle differences between the two events, but the ones listed here are the primary differences between a solar and lunar eclipse.

Effects Of A Solar & Lunar Eclipse On The Weather

Although both phenomena look impressive and significant, they can create the impression that they may have a considerable impact on the earth's atmospheric conditions. This impression is only partially correct.

The moon is already most notable during the evening when the sky is covered in darkness. A lunar eclipse will only result in the darkening of what is already a small light source, so it has little if any effect on our weather.

A solar eclipse, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter. It occurs during the day when the sun is the primary source of light, heat, and other forms of solar radiation that the earth needs to support life on the planet.

Solar Eclipse Darkening

A solar eclipse occurs over minutes where the earth is quickly covered in darkness, rather than the several hours it takes the sun to near the horizon in the afternoon before setting. As a result, there is a slight but relatively quick drop in temperature during this event.

(According to NASA, temperatures can drop 10 - 15° Fahrenheit during a solar eclipse.)

Solar eclipses also have an impact on wind speed and direction. Wind is simply air flowing from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure. (You can read all about wind and how it is created in this article.)

A low-pressure system near the ground is created as the sun warm the surface, which warms the air above it in turn. As a result, the warm air starts to rise, leaving air with a lower pressure behind. Wind blows from surrounding high-pressure areas to this location.

During a solar eclipse, the heating of the ground surface slows down, and the low-pressure system is much weaker, resulting in the wind blowing from high-pressure regions to have a much slower speed.  

Even though a solar eclipse has some effect on local atmospheric conditions, it is relatively mild and mostly temporary. It is, therefore, safe to state that solar and lunar eclipses have minimal and only temporary effects on the weather.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that a solar and lunar eclipse are both events that capture the public's imagination. A total solar & lunar eclipse are as spectacular as they are rare.

These two occurrences have a lot in common, but as this article illustrated, they also differ in a variety of ways. In a sense, they are two sides of the same coin. 

This article explained what a solar and lunar eclipse are, and how they occur. It also illustrated how these events differ from each other and how they may affect the weather.

Feel free to leave any comments, questions, or suggestions you may have. Your opinion is valued and will be attended to as soon as possible.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  clicking on this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel


Accurate Forecasting: Benefits Of Owning A Home Weather Station

Accurate - Forecasting Benefits Of Owning A Home Weather Station

An increased number of people already own a home weather station. Some even own more than one of these devices. It raises the question as to what the real benefits are and if you should get one yourself.    

In today's world, where instant information is available for just about everything that goes on in and around you, it is no wonder that people will want to have instant access to their weather data as well.

And this growing trend is not limited to just weather enthusiasts. Worldwide, individuals want the convenience of knowing what the weather is like inside and outside their homes to dress accordingly and make the necessary preparations.

An increasing amount of large and small companies operating outdoors are also starting to rely on the information personal weather stations provide to monitor conditions and schedule projects.

All of which may still leave you in doubt whether you will get any real benefit out of owning your own weather station. This post defines a home weather station and then looks at its various benefits and advantages.

Home Weather Station Definition

There are literally hundreds of weather stations available today. They range from a simple analog thermometer to highly integrated electronic weather stations with multiple indoor and outdoor sensors, while also connected to the internet and your smart home.

Before we start to discuss it in detail and look at all the benefits, it is essential to first gain a clear understanding of precisely a home weather station is:

What Is A Home Weather Station?

What Is A Home Weather Station

​A home weather station is a meteorological device designed to measure and display one or more atmospheric conditions through a number of different weather sensors (both indoor and outdoor).

More advanced weather systems use the collected data to calculate and make short-term weather predictions.

The advantage of the wide range of home weather stations available, is that you can locate a device that serves your specific needs.

There is a weather station out there that will suit you perfectly. No matter if you just need to know what the temperature inside your home is, or you want to measure every possible atmospheric condition in & outside the home, make forecasts and log all your weather data.

Through the years, home weather stations advanced to the point where they can measure almost every possible weather element. The following is a list of weather elements that the advanced Ambient Weather WS-2902A Osprey weather station can measure:

  • Temperature (Indoor And Outdoor) 
  • Relative Humidity (Indoor And Outdoor)
  • Dew Point Temperature
  • Barometric Pressure
  • Rainfall
  • Wind Speed 
  • Wind Direction 
  • Ultraviolet Radiation
  • Solar Radiation

Needless to say, you don't need half these functions to enjoy all the benefits a home weather stations can provide, but it does give you an indication of just how advanced modern meteorological instruments became.

Benefits Of Owning A Home Weather Station

And this brings us to the main focus of this post. In order to illustrate the different benefits of home weather stations, we will use two examples which are used for two different purposes.

The first is the Ambient Weather WS-2902A Osprey. This is the station I use for all my "serious" weather observations and research. It is one of the most advanced home weather stations available and sits on the more expensive side of the weather station price scale. 

La Crosse Technologies 308-1414b Weather Station

The second is the La Crosse Technology 308-1414B. I use this affordable device in my study to get a quick indication of the basic weather conditions in and outside the home. It is very affordable for what it offers, but note that there are even more affordable devices available.

These two stations will be used to illustrated specific benefits and drawbacks throughout the following sections. The most significant benefits of home weather stations can be summarized seven key points:

  1. Real-Time Weather Monitoring
  2. Accurate Forecasting (For Your Location)
  3. Global Integration And Sharing Of Data
  4. Ease Of Use
  5. Convenience And Comfort
  6. Remote Access
  7. Affordability

You will be able to get a quick understanding of what each key point entails by simply glancing at the concise explanation provided as we go through each point in more detail.

1) Real Time Weather Monitoring

A weather forecast is exactly that; A forecast. It does not tell you what the current atmospheric conditions are but predicts what the future state of the weather will be. And it definitely not tell you what the present weather conditions are like in your specific location.

This is where the first and most obvious advantage of a home weather station comes into play. Even the most modest and affordable device will tell you what the basic atmospheric conditions are like at any given time in your immediate surroundings.

(And even if a local weather forecaster or app shows you the indicated real-time data, it is not specific to your exact location and an educated guess at best.)

2) Accurate Forecasting (For Your Location)

National and regional forecasts do an increasingly good job of making accurate weather predictions.

However, as you may have already experienced yourself, there is a big difference between local and regional weather. It simply means that there are pockets of smaller weather patterns within a larger regional weather system. 

For example, your home or neighborhood may experience a very different kind of weather than the rest of your city or state is experiencing.

(If you are interested, you can read more about the difference between local and regional weather in this article.)

Ambient Weather WS2902 Osprey Weather Station

Here the forecasting capabilities of a good home weather station comes in very handy. For example, the Ambient WS-2902A station, with its large number of internal and external sensors, does a great job of predicting the weather in your area for the upcoming hours.

Even the budget-orientated La Crosse 308-1414B, with its limited amount of sensors, is doing a surprisingly good job at predicting short-term weather, especially if you consider that its indoor and outdoor sensors only measure temperature and humidity.

As I mentioned numerous times in other posts on this website, there are three weather elements that are vital for making an accurate weather forecast:

  1. Temperature
  2. Humidity
  3. Barometric Pressure

Through research and personal experience, I discovered that the measurement of these three components is the minimum requirement for a precise weather forecast. This is what makes the accuracy of the Lacrosse station so impressive, lacking barometric sensors. 

In conclusion, a home weather station is much better at making a short-term (up to 12 hours) weather prediction of weather conditions in your specific location than a regional or broad local forecasting service can provide.

3) Remote Access

More home weather station owners are connecting their weather stations to the Internet than ever before. This is due to the built-in function of more advanced stations to quickly connect to a local internet connection, like a wireless router.

This function has two significant advantages, namely remote access to your weather station readings, and the ability to integrate your device into a global network and share your data. The latter benefit also allows you to contribute to global forecasting networks.

1) Remote Access To Your Weather Station

Remote access is a powerful feature. The Ambient WS-2902A weather station, for example, is connected via WiFi to my Internet router. This function allows me to connect to Ambient Weather's own network, called Ambientweather.net.

I can access this site from anywhere in the world from any device with an internet connection. It not only shows you all the atmospheric conditions the weather station is currently measuring but also keeps a log of all the weather the device ever recorded.

(This allows one to track and compare weather conditions over months and years, which enables you to establish weather trends, making local forecasting even more accurate.)

2) integrating Your Device Into A Global Network And Sharing Weather Data

This function is a perfect example of how valuable and effective the cooperation of thousands of weather station owners are in contributing to a very accurate global forecasting system.

Remote Access

Many home weather stations, like the Ambient WS-2902A, can be registered on a global forecasting network like Weather Underground (Wunderground) and weathercloud.net.

At the time of writing, Weather Underground already had more than 250 000 weather stations connected to their network. They use all the data from each station to assist in creating surprisingly accurate predictions, especially local weather forecasts.

As a true weather enthusiast, there are few things as satisfying than knowing that your own weather station is part of a global network that collaborates to create one of the best forecasting systems available today. 

4) Ease Of Use

Modern weather stations are extremely easy to install and operate. Most come with extensive written or online instructions that are easy to follow. If that is not sufficient, the chances are very good that you will be able to find a YouTube tutorial posted by a user.

Some weather stations with more extensive external weather sensor array will require more time and effort to assemble. It may seem intimidating at first, but by following the instruction, it is a relatively painless task. 

The Ambient WS-2902A is an example of such a setup. The La Crosse 308-1414B, on the other hand, has a single compact outdoor sensor unit that one can simply stick or screw into a wall. Either way, it is a fairly straightforward process.

The indoor display units are a breeze to set up. Instructions are provided, but in most cases, the onscreen setup wizard quickly takes you through the installation process. It is the case with both weather stations used as an example in this post.

Viewing and changing elements on the displayed units are also simple, as each symbol and value is clearly marked and logically laid out. Even if the sheer number of information on the screen may seem overwhelming, you will get used to it in no time at all.

5) Convenience And Comfort

The convenience of owning a home weather station should start to become evident by now. Without leaving the comfort of your home (and sometimes even your bed), you can quickly gauge the weather conditions outside, as well as the indoor temperature and humidity.

The ability to know what the conditions outside your home are like without having to brave potentially scorching hot weather or freezing cold first provides a substantial level of comfort and convenience.

This benefit not only allows you to dress accordingly and make any other necessary preparations, but weather stations with forecasting abilities also allow you to better plan your day.

6) Remote Access

We already touched on this subject when discussing Global Integration And Sharing Of Data. Most modern advanced home weather stations, regardless of make, have their online network on which you can register your device.

Global Communication

This function allows you to see whatever the atmospheric conditions are like at your home from any location in the world where you have access to the Internet. It is available on your laptop, PC, phone, or tablet.

I already pointed out how Ambient Weather allows the WS-2902A to connect to its online network. It is by no means the only manufacturer that provides its own online network.

Any device that a user connects to Wunderground can also be accessed worldwide, and you can read all your current weather readings in detail directly from their page.

One more advantage of remote access is the ability to control your smart home to adjust to changing weather conditions. It may be a relatively recent development, but by having your devices connected to a smart home network, you make any adjustments from anywhere.

The Ambient WS-2902A already has IFTTT functionality, meaning it can integrate with your smart home system. It allows you to set up devices in your home to respond if certain weather condition is met (like closing the blinds, switching on the aircon, etc.)

7) Affordability

Weather stations don't just come in all shapes and sizes, but also vary from extremely affordable to relatively expensive, depending on your specific requirements.

It is clearly evident from simply looking at the price difference between the two weather stations used as examples throughout this post.

The more budget-orientated La Crosse Technology 308-1414B device is available for around 50 Us dollars. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the advanced  Ambient Weather WS-2902A Osprey will set you back approximately 150 US dollars. 

There are even cheaper as well as more expensive home weather stations on the market. Depending on what you are looking for in a meteorological device, you can find a basic system for as little as 8 dollars, to a comprehensive high-end station for 1 000 dollars.

​The two devices used in this post are by no means the best available by any means. They are just two examples of weather stations that do what they are supposed to do very well. There is a multitude of instruments out there that are as good or maybe even better.

This means that whatever your needs, there will be a home weather station you can afford and meet most, if not all of your requirements.

Conclusion

After reading through all the benefits laid out in this post, you should be able to decide for yourself if you need or can really benefit from owning a home weather station. As the post clearly showed, there are numerous advantages to a variety of different requirements.

If you are still unsure, the following guideline may help. If you feel you need or can benefit from three or more of the advantages listed in this article, you should seriously consider the possibility of owning your own weather station.

You can start with a very affordable system that won't even put a dent in your pocket. See how well it works for you, and take it from there.

As I already pointed out, the two systems used as examples in this article are by no means the best or only quality weather devices available. In the Recommended Resources section, I already examined other weather stations worth looking at more closely.

In the future, I will share my findings in a comprehensive post whenever I obtain and start using a new weather station.

The aim of this article was to highlight the most important benefits and clear up any confusion when it comes to these weather devices. I trust it helped you in deciding if you've been sitting on the fence or wondering if you really need a home weather station.

Feel free to leave any comments, questions, or suggestions you may have. Your opinion is valued and will be attended to as soon as possible.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  clicking on this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel


What Is St Elmo’s Fire?

What Is St Elmos Fire

It is not unusual to notice a seemingly inexplicable flame or light in the sky. Countless cases were documented throughout the centuries. Very often, the "unexplained" have a scientific and simple explanation.

There are various sources of light forming in the atmosphere that are well-known meteorological phenomena. Examples include occurrences like lightning, the aurora borealis, the green flash during sunsets, and noctilucent clouds in the evenings.

One such event creates a blue flame-like glow at the edge of a relatively sharp object and is called St Elmo's Fire. It often gets mistaken for other natural phenomena like fire or ball lightning, although it is a completely unique occurrence.

This article examines what this phenomenon is, provides a brief history, and explains how it develops in the atmosphere.

St Elmo's Fire Definition

The word fire, in St Elmo's Fire, can be very deceiving. Although the blue glow that forms as a result of this phenomenon may resemble a blue flame, the process itself has nothing to do with any type of fire.

Before examining how this occurrence is formed, one needs to have a clear definition of what precisely it is first.   

What Is St Elmo's Fire?

What Is St Elmo's Fire

St Elmo's Fire is a meteorological occurrence where a pointed object creates an electrical discharge in the form of a blue plasma in a highly charged electrical field. 

The illuminated plasma is the result of a process called corona discharge.

The blue glow whose shape sometimes resembles a form of fire or lightning is often accompanied by a hissing or buzzing sound. (Very much like the buzzing of neon light, which is basically the same process.)

It was already made clear that there is no relation between the blue glow synonymous with this event and incidents actual fire. Although they have similar characteristics, St Elmo's Fire is also not a form of lightning, though it has been mistaken for ball lightning in the past.

The name and history imply that this phenomenon mostly applies to maritime-related activities (more on that in the next section.) It has been shown that, however, that St Elmo's Fire can occur anywhere over land as well, If all the necessary components are in place.

As it is clearly a unique occurrence, a thorough explanation will be needed to understand how this phenomenon occurs. We will address this issue shortly, but first, a short history that will clarify the name and origin of the name, St Elmo's Fire.

A Short History Of St Elmo's Fire

Some of the first and oldest accounts of this phenomenon recorded were by sailor over the last few centuries that observed the strange glow at the top of their sailing ship's masts.

Saint Erasmus

The word "St Emo," refers to St Erasmus, a Christian bishop who lived during the Third Century. After his death, he became regarded as the patron saint of sailors.

The appearance of the blue flame-like glow on ship's masts was seen by sailors as a good omen, as they believed it indicated the presence of St Erasmus to guide them through dangerous times at sea. As a result, the blue discharge became known as St Elmo's Fire.

The fact that the phenomenon usually appears near the end of thunderstorms cemented the belief sailors had about it being a good omen since they started to associate with the end of bad and stormy weather.

How Does St Elmo's Fire Occur?

Although it seems to appear out of the blue, a couple of elements need to be in place for this event to occur:

  • A Highly-Charged Electrical Field
  • Narrow And/Or Pointed Pointed Object

In an atmosphere, like the one created during a thunderstorm, friction between particles causes a build-up of particles, leading to an increase in electrons in the air. It creates a highly charged electrical field that stretches all the way to the ground.

Sharp or pointed objects concentrate these highly-charged electrical fields, creating a discharge where air molecules get torn down to form plasma (as atoms are being stripped of their electrons). This process is better known as a corona discharge.

(A corona discharge is a process through which an electrical discharge causes air to be ionized. Ionized air is just another term for plasma.)

Sharp Object And St Elmo's Fire

During this process, illuminated plasma is created that hovers around the object where the discharge took place and can last for several minutes. Objects can include anything from cathedral towers, ship masts, the tip of an airplane wing, and even the horns of cows.

The light created has a blue or violet color since this is the color that oxygen and nitrogen emit when a discharge takes place in the atmosphere.

This exact same process takes place in neon lights where the discharge gets controlled to allow the illumination of plasma to continue permanently. It explains why the buzzing sound that accompanies St Elmo's Fire is similar to the sound emitted by neon lights.

Is St Elmo's Fire Dangerous?

There have been few if any reports of people coming in actual contact of being engulfed by St Elmo's Fire. It usually occurs on taller sharp objects like ship's masts and church towers.

Even if a human came in direct contact with this phenomenon, though, they would usually experience no more than pricking sensation. What is much more dangerous, though, is the type of event that accompanies these conditions.

St Elmo's fire occurs in the same type of electrically charged atmosphere that causes lightning to occur. If you observe the former, it may be an indication that a lightning storm is imminent or nearby. It should serve as a warning to take cover.

Conclusion

If you search the term on Google, St Elmo's Fire usually yields results referring to the 1980's movie with the same name. Unlike the film, it is a very real meteorological event and dates thousands of years back.

As this article explained, the mysterious blue flame-like glow that appears around sharp objects is not as inexplicable as many first time observers may think. In the most simplistic terms, it is no more than an electrical discharge that creates a body of illuminated plasma.

This post explained what St Elmo's Fire is, how it occurs, and briefly touched on any potential dangers it may pose.

Feel free to leave any comments, questions, or suggestions you may have. Your opinion is valued and will be attended to as soon as possible.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  clicking on this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel


Atmospheric Absorption – Shielding The Planet From Solar Radiation

Atmospheric Absorption

The Earth gets bombarded by an incredible amount of solar radiation on a daily basis. It is responsible for illuminating the planet, as well as causing the surface and oceans to heat up. 

It is essential for the continual existence of all life on Earth. If the full amount of solar radiation is allowed to reach the surface unfiltered, though, it will be deadly and cause complete devastation.

A large portion of electromagnetic energy is scattered, refracted, diffused, and reflected by the surface and atmosphere. A significant amount of radiation is also absorbed by the atmosphere, a process called Atmospheric Absorption.

This article examines what atmospheric absorption is, how it occurs, and what parts of solar radiation are affected.

Atmospheric Absorption Definition

From the introduction, it is clear that atmospheric absorption forms a significant and essential part of the way solar radiation gets regulated by the planet. To understand how this process works, atmospheric absorption needs to be more clearly defined.

What Is Atmospheric Absorption?

What Is Solar Absorption

Atmospheric Absorption is the process through which gases and small particles in the atmosphere absorb a large percentage of solar radiation.

The sun's radiation consists of a wide range of light in the electromagnetic spectrum, from short-wavelength x-rays on the one side to long-wavelength radio waves on the opposite side of the spectrum.

The three most important forms of solar radiation that reach and impact the Earth is:

  • Visible Light 
  • Infrared Light
  • Ultraviolet Light.

Visible light forms roughly half the total amount of solar radiation reaching the atmosphere.

Atmospheric absorption is responsible for a significant portion of this solar radiation not reaching the surface of the planet, specifically infrared and ultraviolet light. 

Solar Spectrum

The Solar Spectrum Showing The Absorption & Transmission Of Different Wavelengths

Of the three primary components that make up solar radiation, visible light is the only one that reaches the planet's surface without any significant amount of absorption or filtration taking place.

In contrast, infrared and ultraviolet light gets subjected to a significant amount of absorption in the atmosphere. In the next section, we will discuss how this takes place.

How Atmospheric Absorption Occurs

The atmosphere absorbs 23 percent of all incoming solar energy. It does so through the ability of specific gases and small particles to absorb different wavelengths of radiation in the solar spectrum.

The regions in the spectrum that travels through the atmosphere without much absorption and reaches the planet's surface relative unaffected are called atmospheric windows. Visible light falls within this region.  

The parts of the electromagnetic spectrum that gets absorbed by the atmosphere are known as absorption bands. Infrared and ultraviolet light are the two biggest sources of radiation fall within this adsorption range.

The three most significant gases responsible for absorbing solar radiation is:

  1. Water Vapor (H₂O)
  2. Carbon Dioxide (CO₂)
  3. Ozone (O₃)

The way in which these gases absorb solar radiation is by a form of energy exchange in which gas molecules turn incoming light energy into heat. As a result, the atmosphere experience a rise in temperature where absorption takes place.   

Carbon Dioxide

Water vapor is responsible for absorbing the largest amount of solar radiation. Combined with carbon dioxide, water moisture is mainly responsible for the abortion of infrared radiation that sits on the side of the electromagnetic scale comprised of longer wavelengths.

The largest concentration of ozone is found in the stratosphere. It is here in the ozone layer that the highest percentage of ultraviolet light gets absorbed (which sits on the side of the electromagnetic scale comprised of shorter wavelengths.)

UV light consists of Ultraviolet-A, Ultraviolet-B, and Ultraviolet-C rays. Of these three, Ultraviolet-C is by far the most dangerous. However, ozone absorbs more than 90 percent of this form of ultraviolet light.

Ozone also absorbs around 50 percent of Ultraviolet-A, and 90 percent of Ultraviolet-B radiation. The 10 percent of UV-B that does reach the Earth's surface is enough to still pose a significant threat to human health.


It should be noted, however, that even though the gases mentioned here are responsible for absorbing a large amount of solar radiation (that can be extremely dangerous to all life on Earth), it is not the only source for preventing solar radiation from reaching the surface.

Dust and other small particles are the primary sources responsible for scattering and absorbing the total effective amount of solar radiation. It is through this process that the most significant impact of solar radiation is diminished.

Importance Of Atmospheric Absorption

It should be self-evident from the information already provided in this post just how crucial atmospheric absorption is to the survival of all life Earth.

To emphasize the importance of this process, two key areas will be highlighted where the absence of atmospheric absorption will be catastrophic to the planet.

1) Ultraviolet Radiation Protection

Almost no Ultraviolet-C light reaches the planet's surface since more than 99 percent gets absorbed by ozone in the atmosphere. UV-C light is the most dangerous form of ultraviolet radiation and can cause severe burns, eye damage, and skin cancer.

Even if only 50 percent of UV-C radiation were allowed to reach the surface, the result would be catastrophic for all life on Earth, making outside exposure to the sun almost impossible. 

(The same applies to Ultraviolet-B radiation, where around 90 percent of this light is blocked by the atmosphere.)

2) Warming Of The Planet's Surface

Infrared Light

Infrared light is responsible for warming the surface of the planet, which is essential for the existence of every biological organism (humans included.)

A fine balance exists between the amount of heat the Earth receives and the amount that gets radiated back into space. A large percentage of IR light gets absorbed by water vapor and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

In the absence of this absorption, heat will build up at a much faster rate than it can be expelled, which will make the planet uninhabitable in a very short space of time.

Everything in this section has already been mentioned throughout this post but was worth emphasizing to highlight just how crucial the atmospheric absorption process is.

Conclusion

From this post, it is clear that although it not such a well-known topic, atmospheric absorption forms a crucial part of the Earth's global climate and weather systems.

This article focused on explaining what atmospheric absorption is, how it takes place, and its importance to the planet and all life on it.

Feel free to leave any comments, questions, or suggestions you may have. Your opinion is valued and will be attended to as soon as possible.

Never miss out again when another interesting and helpful article is released and stay updated, while also receiving helpful tips & information by simply  clicking on this link .

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel


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