Natural sources

Since the atmosphere can be treated, on a large scale, as if it were in steady state, we have a model that views the atmosphere as having sources, a reservoir (i.e. the atmosphere itself) and removal processes, all in delicate balance. The sources need to be quite stable over the long term. If they are not, then the balance will shift. In terms of our earlier analogy, the level in the leaking bucket will change.

The best-known, and most worrying, example of such a shift is the increasing magnitude of the CO2 source because of the consumption of vast amounts of fossil fuel by human activities. This has given rise to a continuing increase in the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. The predicted rise in temperature, due to the greenhouse effect, is explored in detail in Chapter 7.

There are many sources of trace components in the atmosphere, which can be divided into different categories, such as geochemical, biological and human or anthropogenic sources. Some of these sources are hard to categorize. Is a forest fire a geochemical, biological or human source—particularly if the forest was planted or the fire started through human activities? Although our definitions can become a little blurred, it is nevertheless useful to categorize sources.

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Guide to Alternative Fuels

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