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Earth Under Siege

From Air Pollution to Global Change

Second Edition

Richard P. Turco
Foreword by Carl Sagan

Publication Date - 21 February 2002

ISBN: 9780195142747

552 pages
7-1/2 x 10 inches


"We urgently need a comprehensive and comprehensible book on the dangers to the environment. That need has now been supplied in the present book by Richard Turco."
--the Foreword by Carl Sagan

This acclaimed book examines one of the most important problems facing our modern technological age: environmental pollution. Written to inform general readers--including future policy makers, business administrators, and political leaders--the text offers a comprehensive description of environmental systems, providing a basic understanding of how the world around us works and how human activities affect it. Building on a popular course he taught at UCLA, Richard Turco clearly explains underlying environmental principles and processes including the role of evolutionary forces in shaping the environment, Earth's energy balance, and biogeochemical cycles. Against this background, Turco surveys local and regional problems, including indoor air pollution, smog, and acid rain, identifying the sources and fates of pollutants and examining human exposure to natural and manmade toxins. He then addresses global issues such as stratospheric ozone depletion and greenhouse climate warming and describes responses to these threats in the form of "global environmental engineering." Now in its second edition, Earth Under Siege has been revised and updated to reflect advances in knowledge and progress in regulation. It offers a comprehensive overview of environmental issues for students in the physical and life sciences, geography, economics, engineering, environmental management and law, policy studies, and social and health sciences.


  • Presents information in a way that is readily accessible to nonscientists but is sufficiently detailed to hold the interest of scientists and engineers
  • Explains the technical principles underlying a wide range of current environmental problems
  • Addresses critical local, regional, and global issues and their impact on life and society
  • Uses common experiences and novel illustrations to familiarize students with fundamental concepts
  • Challenges readers to think about and approach problems objectively and creatively
  • Includes a helpful primer on the basic mathematics employed in the text

  • About the Author(s)

    Richard P. Turco is Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Director of UCLA's Institute of the Environment.

    Previous Publication Date(s)

    November 1996

    Table of Contents

      Each chapter ends with Questions and Problems.
      Foreword by Carl Sagan
      Preface to the First Edition
      1. Introduction
      1.1. The Cronus Syndrome
      1.2. On the Quality of Life
      1.3. Global Change and Preservation
      1.4. Methodology for Study
      Part I. Fundamentals
      2. Air: The Medium of Change
      2.1. What Is Air?
      2.1.1. Sensing Air
      2.1.2. The Basic Ingredients
      2.1.3. The Basic Properties
      2.2. A Short History of Discovery
      2.2.1. The Air Revealed
      2.2.2. The Mechanics of Air
      2.3. The Structure of the Atmosphere
      2.3.1. How Much Air Is There?
      2.3.2. Temperature Profiles
      2.3.3. The Stratification of the Atmosphere
      2.4. Air in Motion
      2.4.1. Local Winds and Weather
      2.4.2. Global Wind Systems
      3. Basic Physical and Chemical Principles
      3.1. The Mechanical Behavior of Gases and Particles
      3.1.1. Gas Laws and Hydrostatics
      3.1.2. Particles in Suspension
      3.1.3. Clouds and Precipitation
      3.2. Radiation and Energy
      3.2.1. Sunlight and Heat
      3.2.2. Scattering and Absorption
      3.2.3. Common Optical Effects
      3.3. Chemistry and the Environment
      3.3.1. Symbols and Terminology
      3.3.2. Properties of Common Substances
      3.3.3. The Mechanisms of Chemical Reactions
      3.3.4. Basic Chemical Reactions
      4. The Evolution of Earth
      4.1. The Origin of the Earth
      4.1.1. Early Evolutionary Phases
      4.1.2. Box Models for Earth Reservoirs
      4.1.3. The Prebiotic Atmosphere
      4.2. The Coevolution of the Environment and Life
      4.2.1. The Evolution of Life Processes
      4.2.2. Ancient Organisms and Greenhouse Gases
      4.2.3. Photosynthesis and the Ozone Layer
      4.3. The Mass Extinction of Life
      4.3.1. Fossil History
      4.3.2. The Dinosaurs: A Lesson in Longevity
      4.3.3. Goddess Gaia and Homeostasis
      4.4. The Coevolution of Intelligence and Pollution
      4.4.1. Population and Technology
      Part II. Local and Regional Pollution Issues
      5. Sources and Dispersion of Pollutants
      5.1. The Source of the Problem
      5.1.1. What to Call Pollutants?
      5.1.2. Distributed and Point Sources
      5.1.3. Size Scales of Dispersion
      5.2. The Dispersion of Pollutants
      5.2.1. Diffusion and Turbulence
      5.2.2. Convection and Lofting
      5.2.3. Advection and Long-Range Transport
      5.3. Temperature Inversions
      5.3.1. Temperatures in the Lower Atmosphere
      5.3.2. Atmospheric Stability
      5.3.3. Large-Scale Inversions
      5.4. Plumes of Pollution
      5.4.1. Smokestack Plumes
      5.4.2. Ground Plumes
      5.4.3. Urban Heat Islands
      5.5. Regional Dispersion of Pollutants
      5.5.1. In Coastal Zones
      5.5.2. Near Mountain Barriers
      6. Smog: The Urban Syndrome
      6.1. The History of Smog
      6.1.1. Air Pollution and Poets
      6.1.2. London Smog
      6.1.3. Los Angeles Smog
      6.2. Primary and Secondary Pollutants
      6.2.1. The Basic Ingredients
      6.2.2. Clean and Dirty Air
      6.3. Smog Scenarios: A Typical Polluted Day
      6.3.1. Carbon Monoxide
      6.3.2. Nitrogen Dioxide
      6.3.3. Ozone
      6.4. Dissecting Smog
      6.4.1. The Evolution of Smoggy Air
      6.4.2. Trends in Air Pollution
      6.5. Haze and Visibility
      6.5.1. Total Suspended Particulate
      6.5.2. Seeing through Air
      6.5.3. Acid Particles and Fog
      6.6. Controlling Smog: Everyone's Job
      6.6.1. Reducing Emissions of Primary Pollutants
      6.6.2. Alternative Fuels
      6.6.3. Lifestyles for Health and Survival
      7. Effects of Exposure to Pollution
      7.1. How Pollutants Affect Health
      7.1.1. The Discovery of Toxicity
      7.1.2. The Physiology of Toxicity
      7.2. The Toxic Effects of Air Pollutants
      7.2.1. Common Ingredients of Smog
      7.2.2. Eye Irritants
      7.2.3. Organic Vapors
      7.2.4. Problem Particles
      7.2.5. Persistent Environmental Toxins
      7.3. Radioactivity
      7.3.1. Stability of the Elements
      7.3.2. Sources of Radioactivity
      7.3.3. The Physiological Effects of Radioactivity
      7.4. Assessment of Health Risks
      7.4.1. Defining the Threat
      7.4.2. Risks and Benefits of Pollution
      7.4.3. Box Models for Risk Assessment
      7.4.4. Urban Smog: A Case Study
      7.5. Limiting Risk
      8. Indoor Air Pollution
      8.1. What Are "Indoor" Air Pollutants?
      8.1.1. The Special Character of Indoor Pollution
      8.1.2. Indoor Pollution and the News
      8.2. Radon: Mother and Daughters
      8.2.1. Poison from the Earth
      8.2.2. Radon Exposure and Its Effects
      8.3. Formaldehyde
      8.3.1. Embalmers' Fluid
      8.3.2. Formaldehyde's Impacts on Health
      8.4. Tobacco Smoke
      8.4.1. Composition of Tobacco Smoke
      8.4.2. Tobacco Smoke's Effects on Health
      8.4.3. Smoke and Mirrors
      8.5. Other Indoor Pollutants
      8.5.1. Biogenic Pollutants
      8.5.2. Indoor Water Pollution
      8.6. Indoor Versus Outdoor Pollution
      8.6.1. Is It Safe to Go Indoors?
      8.6.2. Making Indoors Safe
      9. Acid Rain
      9.1. The Tainted Rain
      9.2. Acidity and pH
      9.2.1. The pH Scale
      9.2.2. Acids in Water
      9.2.3. Alkalinity: The Acid Buffer
      9.3. Sources of Environmental Acids
      9.3.1. How Acid Is Acid Rain?
      9.3.2. Sulfur Oxides and Acid Rain
      9.3.3. Nitrogen Oxides and Acid Rain
      9.4. Acid Fog
      9.5. The Costs of Excess Acidity
      9.5.1. Dying Forests and Lakes
      9.5.2. A Potpourri of Destruction
      9.5.3. Health Implications
      9.6. Controlling Acid Rain and Fog
      Part III. Global-Scale Pollution Issues
      Carbon Dioxide and the Greenhouse Effect
      Ozone Depletion and the Ozone Hole
      Climate Change Caused by Nuclear War: Nuclear Winter
      The Relationship between Population and Pollution
      10. Global Biogeochemical Cycles
      10.1. The Grand Chemical Cycles of Earth
      10.1.1. Reservoirs in the Earth System
      10.1.2. Simple Reservoir Models
      10.2. Biogeochemical Cycles of the Primary Elements
      10.2.1. Sulfur
      10.2.2. Nitrogen
      10.2.3. Oxygen
      10.2.4. Carbon
      10.3. The Hydrological Cycle
      10.4. A Global Garbage Dump?
      11. The Climate Machine
      11.1. Weather and Climate
      11.2. Energy from the Sun
      11.2.1. Solar Illumination
      11.2.2. The Four Seasons
      11.3. The Temperature of Earth
      11.3.1. Sunlight In, Earthglow Out
      11.3.2. An Energy Balance Model
      11.3.3. The Temperatures of the Planets
      11.4. The Greenhouse Effect
      11.4.1. Atmospheric Band Absorption
      11.4.2. Radiation Emission from the Earth
      11.4.3. Clouds and Radiation
      11.4.4. The Greenhouse Energy Balance
      11.5. Energy Reservoirs: The Climate Flywheel
      11.5.1. Reservoirs for Heat
      11.5.2. Ice: The Cool Reservoir
      11.5.3. A Coupled Climate System
      11.6. Causes of Climate Change
      11.6.1. Climate Variability
      11.6.2. Solar Variability: External Forcing
      11.6.3. Ice Ages
      11.6.4. Volcanic Eruptions
      11.6.5. The Albedo Effect
      11.7. The Vulnerability of Life to a Changing Climate
      11.7.1. Modern Society and Climate
      11.7.2. Do We Need Climate Insurance?
      12. Greenhouse Warming
      12.1. Greenhouse Gases
      12.1.1. The Greenhouse Culprits: A Rogue's Gallery
      12.1.2. Water Vapor: Innocent Bystander or Good Samaritan?
      12.2. Carbon Dioxide
      12.2.1. Increasing CO2: What Is the Cause?
      12.2.2. The Problem with Energy Addiction
      12.3. Other Greenhouse Gases
      12.3.1. Methane
      12.3.2. Nitrous Oxide
      12.3.3. Chlorofluorocarbons
      12.3.4. Ozone
      12.4. the Warming Effect of Greenhouse Gases
      12.4.1. Climate History and the Greenhouse Effect
      12.4.2. Recent Temperature Trends
      12.4.3. Forecasts of Greenhouse Warming
      12.4.4. Uncertainty Is the Future
      12.4. Solutions?
      12.5.1. Recyclable Fuels
      12.5.2. Alternative Energy Sources
      12.5.3. Climate Correction: Endangering the Environment
      13. The Stratospheric Ozone Layer
      13.1. The Ozone Shield
      13.2. The Formation and Destruction of Ozone
      13.2.1. The Photochemistry of Ozone
      13.2.2. The Destruction of Catalytic Ozone
      13.3. The Distribution of Ozone in the Atmosphere
      13.3.1. Dobson Units: Ozone Overhead
      13.3.2. How Much Ozone Is There?
      13.4. Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation
      13.4.1. Regions of the Ultraviolet Spectrum
      13.4.2. Health Effects of UV-B Radiation
      13.4.3. Environmental Effects of UV-B Radiation
      13.5. Threats Against Ozone
      13.5.1. A Litany of Threats
      13.5.2. Chlorine
      13.5.3. Nitrogen Oxides and Ozone Change
      13.5.4. Bromine and the Halons
      13.6. Forecasts of Global Ozone Depletion
      13.6.1. Scenarios and Projections
      13.6.2. Signature of the Culprit
      13.7. The Ozone Hole
      13.7.1. Discovery
      13.7.2. The Polar Vortex
      13.7.3. Polar Stratospheric Clouds
      13.7.4. Ozone Depletion: The Hole Story
      13.7.5. A Global Ozone Disaster?
      13.8. Solutions and Actions
      13.8.1. The Montreal Protocol
      13.8.2. Saving the Earth's Ozone Layer
      14. Global Environmental Engineering
      14.1. What Is Global Environmental Engineering?
      14.1.1. Living Thermostats: Natural Compensation
      14.1.2. Planetary Engineering
      14.2. Technological Traps
      14.2.1. Nuclear Winter
      14.2.2. Carbon Dioxide
      14.2.3. Chlorofluorocarbons
      14.3. Technological Cures
      14.3.1. Preventing Armageddon
      14.3.2. Cooling Down the Greenhouse
      14.3.3. Fixing the Ozone Shield
      14.4. A Rational Approach to Environmental Management
      Appendix A. Scientific Notation, Units, and Constants
      A.1. Scientific Notation
      Applications of Scientific Notation
      Large and Small Numbers
      Using Mixing Ratios
      A.2. The Metric System: Units and Conversions
      Common Units of Measure
      Manipulation of Dimensions and Units
      A.3. Physical and Mathematical Constants
      Physical Constants (and Their Common Symbols)
      Mathematical Constants
      A.4. Mathematical Operations
      Squares and Square Roots
      Higher Powers
      Exponentials and Logarithms
      Algebraic Equations
      Appendix B. Demonstrations of Common Natural Phenomena
      Demonstration 1: Light Scattering by Small Particles
      Experimental Procedure
      Demonstration 2: Gas-to-Particle Conversion in Smog
      Experimental Procedure
      Demonstration 3: Atmospheric Pressure and Water Vapor Condensation
      Experimental Procedure
      Demonstration 4: Acid Rain Formation
      Experimental Procedure
      Appendix C. Radiation Nomenclature

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