Atmospheric Chemistry Glossary

2014 Version

This is the 2014 version of this glossary. The definitions in this glossary were initially generated by the students in a senior-level class studying air quality and atmospheric chemistry at Sam Houston State University during the spring of 1995 in a course entitled Environmental Science 440/Chemistry 442, AIR QUALITY. In the main, they wrote these definitions as part of a class requirement, and that process has continued. They are updated almost every year. The references found at the end of most entries are an effort to supply additional resources for each of the terms. No supposition of comprehensiveness or absolute correctness can be assumed in any way. Many of the glossary entries have hypertext links to other sites on the Internet. These external links were valid in the spring of 2014.

The 2014 version was created in the nineteenth year for this project and is dedicated to the SHSU Air Quality students who are its authors.


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Here is an example of an entry. There is a link to another site on the Internet for the entry itself:

Carbon Dioxide - CO2, a volatile compound consisting of one carbon and two oxygens. It is a reactant in photosynthesis and necessary for plant life, and is abundant in the atmosphere due to anthropogenic and natural activities. It is a greenhouse gas. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has been rising from a preindustrial value (<AD1800) of about 280 ppmv to a May 2014 level of about 402 ppmv as measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii. This is an increase of over 40%. C. David Keeling was instrumental in establishing the first, high precision, continuous measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The continuous, upward sloping plot of atmospheric CO2 concentration versus times is eponymously known as the Keeling curve. Ice core data from the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica show that present atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and CH4 are the highest in the past 800,000 years as determined in the so-called Dome C ice core. [Journal of Geophysical Research; v96; 7301-7312; 1991; DOI:10.1029/90JD02713] [Environmental Science and Technology; v28; 1565-1576; 1994; DOI:10.1021/es00058a006] [Atmospheric CO2 and 13CO2 exchange with the terrestrial biosphere and oceans from 1978 to 2000: observations and carbon cycle implications; C. D. Keeling, S. C. Piper, R. B. Bacastow, M. Wahlen, T. P. Whorf, M. Heimann, and H. A. Meijer; pp. 83-113, in "A History of Atmospheric CO2 and its effects on Plants, Animals, and Ecosystems", editors, Ehleringer, J.R., T. E. Cerling, M. D. Dearing, Springer Verlag, New York, 2005; DOI: 10.1126/science.1141038]


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Department of Chemistry at Sam Houston State University

This Glossary is maintained by the Chemistry Department of Sam Houston State University.
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