Atmospheric chemistry is the field of the study of atmospheric science which deals with the chemistry of Earth’s atmosphere including the other planets. The multidisciplinary research approach includes the study of physics, computer modelling, environmental chemistry, geology, oceanography and volcanology amongst other disciplines. Study of climatology is linked with the research.
Atmospheric chemistry studies interaction of the gases, solids and liquids present in the atmosphere with each other and with the surface of the Earth; the chemical composition of the natural atmosphere, the impact of human activities that can bring a change in the physical and chemical characteristics of the atmosphere.
- Crutzen, M. Molina and F.S. Rowland are the three atmospheric scientists who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995.
HISTORY OF ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY
In old era, Greeks considered air to be one of the four vital elements of life. In the 18th century, the first scientific study of the composition of atmosphere began with the chemists Henry Cavendish, Joseph Priestley and Antoine Lavoisier. They made the first ever measurement of the atmospheric composition.
In a 19th and 20th century, the interest area shifted towards the study of constituents with small concentrations. In 1840, Christian Friedrich discovered ozone. In the 20th century, the interest area was to find out the concentration of the gases in the atmosphere and how they have changed over time. Also, chemical processes were studied which could destroy or create any compound in the air.
In the 21st century, as of now, the atmospheric chemistry has become a part of Earth’s system.
IMPORTANCE OF ATMOSPHERIC CHEMISTRY
- The study of the composition and the chemistry of the Earth’s atmosphere can help in understanding the interactions between the atmosphere and the living organisms.
- The natural processes like lightning, volcanic eruptions, emission of solar particles by corona etc can alter the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere and brings out a change.
- Human activity remains one of the reasons of the change in Earth’s atmosphere. The changes are really harmful to human health and other ecosystems. Studying the changes can help us solve various problems.
- Atmospheric chemistry has helped in addressing the problem of acid rain, global warming, ozone depletion, greenhouse gases, photochemical smog etc. These problems are not only hazardous to our atmosphere, but also to the existence of human life in the long run.
- Atmospheric chemists try to find and understand the reasons why these problems occur. By understanding the root of the problem, they form theory and find solutions that can be tested so as to remove the problem from its very bud.