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Flashcards in Environment/Nature Deck (55)
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What is a GHG?

- greenhouse gas.

- it is a gas that absorbs and emits radiation within the thermal infrared range.

- excess greenhouse gas in our atmosphere causes global warming (a rise in the earth's temperature)

- the primary greenhouse gases are: water vapor, methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and ozone.


What is the greenhouse effect?

- the process by which excess greenhouse gasses in our atmosphere cause global warming.

- the sun's rays heat the earth and then emit back into space as infrared radiation.

- when there is an excess of greenhouse gas, the sun's excess heat becomes trapped and heats our atmosphere.


What has been the effect of our burning fossil fuels and clearing forests (since the industrial revolution)?

It has contributed to a 40% increase in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.


Where is the South Pole?

- in the Southern Hemisphere (below the equator)

- the middle of Antarctica, at the very bottom of the earth.


What is a pathogen?

A disease-carrying organism.


What is Antarctica?

- an island of land within the Antarctic circle surrounded by water.

- it's at the bottom of the earth, in the Southern Hemisphere. Below the equator.

- the South Pole is right in the middle of it.

- much colder than the arctic.

- the ice at the Antarctic ice cap is 10,000 feet (2 miles) thick.

- animal life (penguins, seals) stay near the water. There is almost no life inland.


Where is the North Pole?

- the top of the world.

- north of the equator, in the northern hemisphere.

- in the middle of the arctic circle.


What is the Arctic?

- an area that is mostly water, surrounded by ice, and then countries peeking into the arctic circle.

- the countries that edge into the arctic circle (and are inside it) are: Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Greenland, Canada, Alaska.

- the arctic ice cap is the ice layer above the water and is only about 10ft. thick.

- has many ice shelves.

- the ice cap (polar ice cap) has been melting since the 70s.


What is the arctic circle?

- The demarcation circle that surrounds the arctic.

- the northern hemisphere.

- several countries edge inside of it.


What is the Antarctic circle?

- The demarcation line around Antarctica .

- in the Southern Hemisphere


What is the main greenhouse gas in our atmosphere?

- Carbon dioxide.

- it accounts for 80% of the greenhouse gas in our atmosphere.

- carbon dioxide is created when we burn fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, coal)


Southern Hemisphere

The half of the earth that is below the equator.

Contains all or parts of Antarctica, Australia, South America, Africa, Asia, Oceania.




Chemical element.

Photosynthesis (plants) consumes it.

Respiration (animals) consumes it.


Oxygen cycle

Plants use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen (photosynthesis)

Animals breathe in the oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide (respiration)








What company is responsible for the 2015 Santa Barbara oil spill?

Plains All American


What is causing the CA draught?

A "blocking ridge", which is a region of high atmospheric pressure that disrupts normal wind patterns (like a boulder blocking a stream).

The blocking ridge is pushing the polar jet stream north (to the arctic circle) and leaving CA, Oregon, and Washington dry.



Invisible radiant energy



In physics, radiation is the emission or transmission of energy in the form of waves or particles.

Example: x-rays, visible light, radio waves, seismic waves.



Relating to heat


Electromagnetic radiation

Radiant energy: visible light, x-rays, radio waves.


BP oil spill

Largest oil spill in US history.

2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, off the coast of Louisiana.

The Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank.

11 people died. 200 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf.

BP has paid out roughly 50 billion dollars as a result.



UK oil company

Responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill (largest spill in US history)

Owns a minority stake in Rosneft, a state-owned oil company in Russia (the part BP owns is in Siberia). - US sanctions on Russia only prevent them from raising credit in the US or using US technology. (The Rosneft drilling operation hasn't been profitable).

BP also had a drilling operation in Libya, but they pulled out because it was too dangerous.



A type of rock composed of silt and clay.

Produces various grades of unconventional oil (cheap oil - heavy, needs much much refining).


Hydroelectric energy

Water power

Example: China has dams that produce energy




A measurement in electricity generation.


How much energy must be generated for a renewable energy source to be viable commercially?

It must generate 1MWh of electricity using renewable energy in order to be granted an REC.


What is an REC?

Renewable energy certificate

Given to renewable energy sources able to generate 1MWh of electricity.


Renewable energy

An energy source that is able to be replenished as quickly as it is depleted.

Examples: solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, wood, oxygen.


What is the problem with renewable energy?

It frequently is not cost effective or practical.

It can create agflation (bio fuel), or run through tax payer money (wind farms) while generating little power. Or it can introduce new problems (massive amounts of e-waste that would be created by solar projects).


Non renewable resource

An energy source that can't be replenished as quickly as it is diminished.

This is primarily fossil fuels (oil, coal, natural gas, petroleum).

These are all naturally occurring substances found in the earth that are composed of hydrocarbon energy (an organic chemical compound composed of hydrogen and carbon atoms).

Hydrocarbons are found in fossilized plant and animal remains that take millions of years to create. There is a finite supply of this and it must be refined before it can be used as fuel.

Our world is mostly powered by fossil fuels.


How large a wind farm would it take to run the US economy?

A wind farm the size of California, Texas, and New Mexico.

Backed by gas on windless days


Bio fuel

A renewable energy source composed of plant and animal materials. (these can be problematic in that they create agflation and are not cost effective)


Ethanol: made of corn
Bio diesel: made of soybeans or vegetable oil.
Green diesel: made of algae.
Bio gas: made of animal waste. (Methane)


How much of the world's energy comes from fossil fuels?

87% (the same as it was 20 years ago).


How much does nuclear energy contribute to world energy consumption?


The EIA estimates in 20 years it will be 6%



Energy information administration


How much do wind and solar power contribute to world energy consumption?

Wind: 1%

Solar: 0%


What has been the biggest recent contribution to decarbonizing the energy system?

The switch from high-carbon coal to lower-carbon gas in electricity generation.


How much do scientists say global warming effects the environment?
When did they start saying it?

For every doubling of the concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere, the temp. rises one degree Celsius.

They've been saying it since the 80s.



An organic chemical compound composed of hydrogen and carbon atoms.

They form naturally from plant and animal remains that are compressed over millions of years.

They are what fossil fuels are made from.



Slang for hydraulic fracturing.

A type of mining that's been done since the 1940s.

Creates fractures in rock formations by injecting chemicals into cracks.
Hydrocarbon energy is then extracted through the fractures.


How many people are killed every year by air pollution from indoor wood fires?

4 million

Mostly in places where people have no access to electricity


How many people on earth have yet get access to electricity in their homes?

1 billion


Are GHG's totally bad?


Without greenhouse gases, earth's surface temperature would be 60 degrees colder than it is now.


World population 2015?

7.2 billion


US population 2015?

320 million


CA population 2015?

38 million


Carbon footprint

The total sets of greenhouse gas emissions (methane and carbon dioxide primarily) produced by an organization, event, product or person.

Most of the carbon footprint emissions for the average US household come from "indirect" sources (example: fuel burned to produce goods far away from the final consumer).


Carbon offsetting

The mitigation of carbon footprints through the development of alternative projects (solar, wind, reforestation).



An air pollutant. (the word is a combination of the words "smoke" and "fog" used to describe a "smoky fog")

Originally used to describe coal pollution in London (soot particulates like sulfur dioxide)

Modern smog like in Los Angeles is air pollution derived from vehicular emission from internal combustion engines that reacts with sunlight and the atmosphere to create photochemical smog.


Photochemical smog

First described in the 1950s.

Chemical reaction of sunlight and nitrogen oxides

Creates particles and ground-level ozone.

Mostly in sunny, dry areas.


Transportation emission smog

Airborne by-products from vehicle exhaust.

Mostly carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons.

These molecules react with sunlight, heat, ammonia, and moisture to form noxious vapors and ground-level ozone.



Invented in 1862

Louis Pasteur invented the process of heating up foods and then letting them cool, in order to reduce pathogens.

Because of this we have dairy products, wine, and canned food.


What are the most used energy sources in the world?

Oil - transportation
Coal - electricity
Gas - heating