Environmental Science Basics, Air




Last week, we studied ground-level ozone. We discovered that our modern way-of-life produces ozone in great quantities, which can be extremely harmful to the environment since it is a chemical poison to many life forms, including humans. This week, we are going to investigate stratospheric ozone. As we read last week, this ozone is responsible for filtering out ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and reducing levels of it found at the Earth's surface. This action is extremely important to life forms found in our ecosystems, since this highenergy form of ionizing radiation can have damaging effects. While our eyes allow us to estimate the amount of visible light that comes from the Sun, we are generally unaware of the amount of non-visible light that it is striking the Earth. The diagram at the right shows the wavelength range of light that is emitted by the Sun. As we can see, the visible part of the spectrum is an extremely tiny portion of the total range. While most of the Sun's energy is in this range, there is still a significant portion of the Sun's energy that is emitted in the infrared and ultraviolet range. While a great deal of the infrared radiation is absorbed by the many greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the only thing standing between us and the ultraviolet radiation is stratospheric ozone.