Apr 20 2010
The air that we breathe is in the troposphere, the first level of air. This is where weather happens, global warming occurs, and where infrared rays are trapped.
The stratosphere is the second level of the air. The highest clouds are in this section, the climate is influenced by the upper troposphere and the lower stratosphere, and this is where the Ozone is located. It blocks UV radiation from reaching the troposphere.
So good air in the troposphere is made of:
78% Nitrogen (N2)– this is triple bonded so it is inert
21% Oxygen (O2)– used for cellular respiration
1% Other– Ar, Ne, He, H2, Xe (all of these are permanent gases) and H2O, CO2, CH4, N2O, O3 (all of these are variable gases that occur naturally, but they vary with human activity) and CFC (man made)
All of these gases are necessary to have healthy air, so we need to have them all. Without these warming gases, our Earth would be uninhabitable. Natural global warming is needed. These gases trap infrared radiation (heat). Note that UV radiation doesn’t cause heat.
Note: Air in the troposphere should have trace amounts of O3, which causes lung damage.
Recently, the Icelandic Volcano that erupted caused people to question the air quality in Europe. According to the World Health Organization, “Volcanic ash is composed of fine particles of fragmented volcanic rock. The main component of the ash that could be expected to have health effects is fine particulate matter (PM). Being less than 10 microns in size, particles can reach the lower respiratory airways. Analysis of the ash is ongoing and so far it is estimated that about 25% of the particles are less than 10 microns in size. People with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma, emphysema or bronchitis may be more susceptible to irritation if ash is in the lower atmosphere in high concentrations.
As long as the volcanic ash remains in the upper atmosphere, there will be no increase in people’s exposure and no risks for health. If it reaches the ground due to vertical movement of air masses, there is a risk of an increase in respiratory symptoms, but the increase is expected to be low and in the range observed without this unusual event. Rains may wash the ash without causing health risks.
The ash cloud might slowly reach other European countries and the eruption might last for days to weeks or more. The European Air Quality Monitoring Network includes hundreds of stations all over Europe that are located in cities, allowing an up-to-date assessment of air pollution on the ground. The European project CITAIR provides daily updates on the quality of air in cities across Europe. Until the evening of Friday 16 April, no increase in European air pollution levels has been observed.
The WHO Regional Office for Europe is providing guidance to Member States on effective ways to address the situation from a public health standpoint, coordinating with partner agencies. WHO will continue to assess the situation and will provide updates as necessary.”
This article was found at: http://www.euro.who.int/air/NewsEvents/20100416_1
So, the volcanic ash isn’t affecting air quality levels in the troposphere.