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Introduction to Air in California

Introduction to Air in California

David Carle
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 273
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  • Book Info
    Introduction to Air in California
    Book Description:

    What is air? Why is the sky blue? Why do people react favorably to mountain or sea air? How does desert air differ from the air of California’s Central Valley? How is air pollution affecting plants and animals? This book is a unique guide to the air we breathe in California. More than a natural history guide, it approaches this fascinating topic by recognizing the overwhelming role played by humans in the story of California’s air. In a highly engaging style, David Carle explains daily weather patterns, seasonal climate, characteristic winds, and sky phenomena. He explores air as the gases in our atmosphere, but also considers the aspects of air that influence all of our senses—its taste, smell, feel, and look. The guide discusses California’s history of air quality management, air pollution and its effect on humans and the environment, and the technological and individual measures needed to address these challenges. The book also functions as a handbook for more environmentally conscious living by providing information on alternative energy sources for consumers and tips for cleaner running cars. * Features 80 color photographs, 23 figures, 18 maps * Covers regional differences of topography, weather, and the character of the air in California’s fifteen designated air basins * Includes a field guide to the sky, explaining color and light, clouds and wind, and the nature of flight * Addresses issues surrounding global climate change in California A book in the Californians and Their Environment subseries, dedicated to understanding human influences on the state's ecology and natural resources

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93955-4
    Subjects: Physics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: The Nature of California Air
    (pp. xiii-xxi)

    It ought to be easy to take California’s air for granted. Every day we take about 20,000 breaths, moving more than 3,400 gallons of air in and out, but breathing is an unconscious act most of the time, from the moment of our birth. The balance between photosynthesis and respiration is a fundamental basis for life, yet the air connection between plants and animals remains invisible to many people. And California’s relatively undemanding climate makes it even easier to remain oblivious to air as a fundamental fact of life. But despite all this, most Californians actuallydoconsider their air...

  5. THE THIN BLANKET: The Atmosphere
    (pp. 1-31)

    As the space shuttle orbits over California, the state’s distinctive valleys, coastline, and the spine of the Sierra Nevada may be visible. The curvature of the Earth is also obvious along the horizon. A thin, intensely blue line traces that curve against the blackness of space, marking the atmosphere (pl. 3). The astronaut’s perspective reveals just how thin the air layer is that envelops the globe, analogous in thickness to the skin of an apple. What, exactly, is this thin blanket?

    Boundaries between layers of the atmosphere are identified by differences in the way temperature changes with altitude (fig. 2)....

  6. AIR APPARENT: A Field Guide to the Sky
    (pp. 33-71)

    Air affects our senses at every moment, but not always at a conscious level. We perceive it as the source of our daily weather; the medium for clouds and rain, wind and temperature. “How far it has come, and how far it has to go!” John Muir wrote:

    How many faces it has fanned, singing, skimming the levels of the sea; floating, sustaining the wide-winged gulls and albatrosses; searching the intricacies of the woods, taking up and carrying their fragrances to every living creature. Now stooping low, visiting the humblest flower, trying the temper of every leaf, tuning them, fondling...

    (pp. 73-109)

    A tour of california can provide an overview of the ways geographical features shape air movement while exploring the climate variations and diverse character of air around the state (map 3). Areas that share the same air because of topography, weather, and climate conditions are called airsheds. The State of California has been officially divided into fifteen “air basins” (map 4). The basins begin with the airshed concept, then factor in political boundaries to create manageable bureaucracies. The state’s air basins are further divided into either county Air Pollution Control Districts (APCDs) or regional Air Quality Management Districts (AQMDs).


    (pp. 111-157)

    Californians have changed the air, leaving a human “footprint” in the atmosphere that affects everything and everyone living in the state. Although Californians can take pride in the progress made fighting air pollution and in leading the nation to face such challenges, the majority of Californians still breathe air with unhealthy levels of pollutants. Some of the state’s air basins have the dubious distinction of “leading the nation” when it comes to dirty air. Studies suggest that breathing air in parts of southern California can reduce one’s life expectancy by more than two years.

    We take a breath about every...

    (pp. 159-181)

    Winds can cross 5,000 miles of the Pacific Ocean and make it to the California coast in less than 10 days. At Arcata, on the north coast of the state, instruments detect the arrival of dust and pollution that originates in Asia. In recent years, ozone levels reaching California across the Pacific Ocean have been 30 percent higher than levels detected in 1985.

    Formation of an “atmospheric brown cloud” has become an annual spring phenomenon over much of eastern Asia. Springtime dust storms in central China pick up smog and particulate pollution and carry it aloft. The phenomenon has increased...

    (pp. 183-208)

    Air quality is regulated through both federal and state requirements and standards, plus regulations set by local air districts. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets ambient air quality standards to protect public health and welfare, and it oversees state programs. The EPA also provides technical and financial assistance through the Office of Air and Radiation, the Office of Transportation and Air Quality, and the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory.

    The EPA has the exclusive authority to regulate interstate trucks registered outside California, as well as certain new farm and construction equipment, new locomotives, ships, and aircraft. In most states...

    (pp. 209-212)
    (pp. 213-222)
    (pp. 223-226)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 227-244)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 245-251)