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Effects of Air Pollution on the Environment

Air pollutants harm the environment by reducing photosynthesis, changing temperature and precipitation, and causing acid rain.

Atoms Practice
Practice Effects of Air Pollution on the Environment
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Smoggy Sunsets
Teacher Contributed

Smoggy Sunsets


Light Refraction Creating Colorful Sunsets

Student Exploration

Is smog to thank for spectacular sunsets?

It is a common belief that increasing the air pollution of a region, while detrimental to our health and environment in many different capacities, will increase the beauty of a sunset. Is this accurate? What are the optimum conditions for a sunset that contains a rainbow of colors? Check it out: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fact-or-fiction-smog-creates-beautiful-sunsets&page=2

Extension Investigation

  1. Based on the Scientific American article mentioned above and this paper by NOAA’s scientist Stephen F. Corfidi (http://www.spc.noaa.gov/publications/corfidi/sunset/), now what do you think? Make a list of factors that affect the colors presented in a sunset (i.e. composition of the atmosphere, density of particles, clouds, etc.). Does smog make the most spectacular sunsets?
  2. People repeatedly report green skies right before a thunderstorm or tornado (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fact-or-fiction-if-sky-is-green-run-for-cover-tornado-is-coming). What do you think this could be attributed to? How is this similar to colors seen during a sunset?
  3. Martian sunsets are blue! Check it out: http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blogland/2012/apr/30/krulwich-wonders-most-peculiar-sunset/ Why are they blue? What color do you think sunsets on other planets are? Pick a planet in our solar system, research the atmospheric conditions, predict the sunset color, and provide evidence in support.

Resources Cited

Scientific American. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fact-or-fiction-smog-creates-beautiful-sunsets&page=2


NOAA. http://www.spc.noaa.gov/publications/corfidi/sunset/

RadioLab. http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blogland/2012/apr/30/krulwich-wonders-most-peculiar-sunset/

L.C. Nøttaasen. Flickr. http://www.flickr.com/photos/magnera/3738093833/

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