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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 03/23/2009

World Meteorological Day: The Air We Breathe

By Ann Posegate

Wx and the City

* Work Week Starts With Early-Spring Chill: Our Full Forecast *

Today, meteorologists and weather and climate enthusiasts throughout the world will be celebrating World Meteorological Day, a holiday of the United Nation's World Meteorological Organization. You may want to greet and congratulate your local meteorologists today, but don't get too close...Some, like Capital Weather Gang's Jason Samenow, have been known to have bouts of uncontrollable laughter and giddiness every March 23.

In honor of World Meteorological Day, here are a few quiz questions related to this year's theme -- "Weather, Climate and the Air We Breathe"...

1. Which layer of the atmosphere contains weather and the air we breathe?
2. On average, what percentage of the air we breathe is oxygen?
3. Which of the following is not a greenhouse gas?
4. T or F: Termites produce 11% of natural methane gas emissions globally.
5. T or F: Pollutants in the air can change cloud composition, precipitation cycles, other weather patterns and climate.
6. What air quality grade did the Washington-Baltimore area receive in 2008?
7. How much did the life expectancy of D.C. residents increase from 1980 to 2000 because of a reduction in particulate air pollution?

Keep reading for the full questions and answers, and more about World Meteorological Day...

1. Which layer of the atmosphere contains the air we breathe and the weather we see?
a. Stratosphere
b. Magnetosphere
c. Troposhere
d. Ionosphere

2. On average, what percentage of the air we breathe is oxygen?
a. 21%
b. 55%
c. 70%
d. 15%

3. Which of the following is not a greenhouse gas?
a. Water vapor
b. Carbon dioxide
c. Methane
d. Helium

4. True or False: Termites produce 11% of global methane gas emissions from natural sources.

5. True or False: Pollutants in the air can change cloud composition, precipitation cycles, other weather patterns and climate.

6. What air quality grade (based on ozone and particulate pollution) did the American Lung Association give the Washington-Baltimore metro area in 2008?
a. A
b. B
c. D
d. F

7. Based on a recent study on life expectancy performed by Harvard and Brigham Young universities, about how much did District residents' life expectancy increase from 1980 to 2000 because of a reduction in particulate air pollution?
a. 5 weeks
b. 7 months
c. 2 years
d. 14 days

Why is the air we breathe worth celebrating? Besides the obvious (we need it to live), it contains a precise recipe of gases that support all life on Earth. It cycles around and around, through oceans and forests and between humans, plants and animals. It creates skies that captivate us and drives Earth's climate. It is constantly in motion. Yet, because of this property, air transports other things -- like pollen and pollutants -- with it. We are inextricably linked to the rest of the planet through the air we breathe.

Thousands of meteorologists, climatologists, chemists, environmental scientists, etc., around the world monitor air -- its temperature, pressure, moisture content, quality, speed and its interaction with and effects on the biosphere.

Amazing, huh?

You can learn more about the air we breathe, how it's monitored and the current and past World Meteorological Day celebrations here (see related items on right side). To find out how you can protect the precious resource of air in our region, check out tips from the Environmental Protection Agency and Clean Air Partners.

Do you know a fun fact or story about air? (My personal favorite is the termite and methane fact...who would have thought?) Feel free to post it in the comments section below.

Answers: 1. c, Troposphere; 2. a, 21%; 3. d, Helium; 4. True (source); 5. True; 6. d, F (source); 7. b., 7 months (the full study can be found here)

By Ann Posegate  | March 23, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  International Weather, Posegate, Wx and the City  
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Comments

My answers: 1, c. 2, a. 3, d. 4, True. 5, True, generally, but w. qualifications. 6, b (probably). 7, c.

Termites DO emit methane. [So do cows!]

Pollutants definitely affect cloud patterns, chiefly by increasing dust in the air. The degree to which larger-scale processes are affected may depend on the scale of the pollution. Volcanic dust definitely has a cooling effect, and dust from pollution could act in a similar manner.

It may be hard to quantify the exact impact of particulates upon life expectancy. Non-particulate pollutants such as ozone and hydrocarbons tend to shorten life expectancy, as well as asbestos fibers if present.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | March 23, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Here is a NOAA advisory about some serious pollution :-) Wonder if they have an "ash-cam".

SUSITNA VALLEY-
INCLUDING THE CITIES OF...TALKEETNA...WILLOW...CANTWELL
828 AM AKDT MON MAR 23 2009

...ASHFALL ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON AKDT TODAY...

AN ASHFALL ADVISORY REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL NOON AKDT TODAY.

REDOUBT VOLCANO...ON THE WEST SIDE OF COOK INLET...HAS ERUPTED SEVERAL
TIMES DURING THE NIGHT. ASHFALL HAS BEEN REPORTED AT SKWENTNA
RANGING FROM ONE EIGHTH TO ONE QUARTER OF AN INCH. THE TALKEETNA
AIRPORT HAS ALSO REPORTED LIGHT ASH COVERING ALL SURFACES OF THE
FACILITY. LIGHT ASHFALL HAS BEEN REPORTED OVER CHULITNA AS
WELL. CONTINUED LIGHT ASHFALL IS POSSIBLE THROUGHOUT THE SUSITNA
VALLEY THROUGH THE MORNING.

Posted by: MDScot | March 23, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

@MDScot - Speaking of "The Air We Breathe," Mount Redoubt is only 100 miles southwest of Anchorage, so it will be interesting to watch where the winds carry ash from today's eruptions. Jeff Masters has a nice summary in his blog about it, including a diagram of projected ash trajectories from wind. I hope residents in south-central Alaska are preparing just in case!

Posted by: Ann-CapitalWeatherGang | March 23, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

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