PDC Test - Atmospheric Observations
You can earn 0.25 PDC by passing the exam following this article, which has been approved for publication by NCRA's Council of the Academy of Professional Reporters.
The questions are based on the material in the article but some may require additional research. Send your answer sheet to NCRA's Continuing Education Office, 8224 Old Courthouse Road, Vienna, VA 22182, and enclose a check for $40 (member) or $50 (non-member) to cover the processing fee.
From fireworks to thunderous rain clouds, some form of chemistry is always present in our environment. But like so many other aspects of life, even the air we breathe every minute of our lives is frequently taken for granted. How often does one consider the constituents in a breath of fresh air? Although we may not be conscious of it as we inhale and exhale, the elements present in our atmosphere are extremely important. To understand in a little greater depth how the individual gas atoms play a part in our very being, some basic chemistry knowledge is fundamental.
The smallest unit of a substance is an atom. Atoms are unique in their number of protons, electrons and neutrons, as well as the orbital patterns displayed around their nuclei. Atoms can be positively, negatively or neutrally charged. If one were to split an atom further, the substance itself would no longer be identified the same. All substances that have 100 percent of the same type of atoms are known as elements. These basic building blocks that we name as elements are systematically arranged in the Periodic Table. The horizontal rows are called periods, and the vertical columns are groups. The number of protons in the nucleus of an atom is its atomic number. In a neutral atom, it is also the number of electrons present in the nucleus.
Nitrogen and oxygen are the primary components of the air enveloping our planet. An atom of nitrogen has seven protons, while oxygen has eight. Both elements are nonmetal gases. While nitrogen composes about 78% of our atmosphere, oxygen accounts for about 20%. Argon, helium and other gases are also found in smaller quantities. Nitrogen is essential to all living organisms. Although it does not support human life and we do not use the element directly, many plants and bacteria are able to fix the atmospheric nitrogen for us, converting it to proteins and other biologically important compounds.
Oxygen is the Earth's most abundant element. In addition to about 20% of our atmosphere containing oxygen, approximately 50% of the earth's crust is composed of oxygen, which is mostly found combined with silicate rocks. By mass, approximately 60% of human bodies consist of oxygen. A different molecular form of oxygen is ozone. Ozone and oxygen differ in the number of atoms which bind together. Ordinary oxygen has two atoms bound together, while ozone has three. Ozone is naturally created by electrical storms, as well as the reaction of ultraviolet light on oxygen. Ozone is present in our atmosphere in small amounts. However, it is the ozone layer, our upper atmosphere, which protects living things on earth from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays.
Natural disasters are responsible for some of our planet's most devastating conditions. But it is now becoming more apparent that our own actions have created quite another set of dangerous and destructive situations. For example, the smog from automobiles produced by nitrogen oxide emissions has lowered the quality of the air we breathe, as well as contributed to global warming. Pollutants can render clouds less likely to produce precipitation, which leads to elevated heat and drought conditions on earth. In fact, according to NASA, the global mean temperature has been steadily rising since 1880.
Essentially, the elements and raw materials we know about have always existed on earth. What man has done with the natural resources available to him has changed over the years. Political and social debates continue to occur as to how to use these technological developments which combine compounds, and undoubtedly, carry inherent risks and benefits.
Beyond the air we breathe, our civilization depends on coal and petroleum for energy. The search for new energy sources continues as some of our dwindling resources are polluted beyond safe human consumption. We are on an energy budget, with a fixed amount of oxygen, nitrogen and other elements present on Earth. If we do not generate successful methods to either conserve more or produce more energy, it may come to the point where we witness an interesting evolution, or perhaps, our own demise.
Atmospheric Observations Test
1. Ozone is present in the atmosphere in: a) large amounts b) small amounts c) only over the U.S. d) none of the above
2. Ordinary oxygen molecules have _____ oxygen atoms, while ozone has ____ oxygen atoms.
a) 2, 3 b) 3, 4 c) 1, 2 d) 3, 2
3. The atomic number of oxygen is ____. a) 2 b) 10 c) 8 d) 6
4. Oxygen makes up about 20 percent of the earth's atmosphere. a) true b) false
5. The gas that makes up about 78 percent of the earth's atmosphere by volume is a) calcium b) oxygen c) ozone d) nitrogen
6. All organisms must have nitrogen to live. a) true b) false
7. The bubbles in champagne are: A) nitroglycerin b) carbon dioxide c) nitrogen d) fructose
8. Sodium chloride (NaCl) is more commonly known as a) baking soda b) sugar c) salt d) bleach
9. Ozone is created naturally. A) true b) false
10. An atom is a) the size of a grain of sand b) a fossil fuel c) the smallest unit of a substance d) a unit of heat
11. Rusting of metal occurs due to a) heat b) photosynthesis c) analytical chemistry d) oxidation
12. Smog is produced by nitrogen oxide emissions from vehicles with internal combustion engines. A) true b) false
13. The ozone layer protects the Earth from the sun’s harmful a) heat b) precipitation c) ultraviolet rays d) chlorofluorocarbons
14. Since ______ global mean temperature has been rising. A) 1850 b) 1880 c) 1920 d) 1950
15. All living things are dependent upon some form of ________. A) oxygen b) hydrogen c) carbon d) sulfer
16. The Periodic Table organizes all known elements into a concise form. The horizontal rows are called periods, and the vertical columns are ________. A) carbons b) overlapping c) protons d) groups
17. Cloud droplets can achieve sufficient mass to become precipitation in the form of a) ice b) hail c) rain d) all of the above.
18. Pollutants can render clouds less likely to produce precipitation. A) true b) false
19. Nitrogen is a colorless and odorless gas, N2, which is insoluble in water. Further, nitrogen a) should be carefully handled b) does not support life c) causes poisonous reactions d) is found only in a liquid state
20. All atoms have the same number of protons, electrons and neutrons a) true b) false