Unit Vocabulary

Biogeochemical cycles such as the water, nitrogen, phosphorous, and carbon cycles, interact with each of Earth's spheres. Photo courtesy of alpoma/Flickr.

Earth's Atmosphere & Pollution 

Acid Rain: occurs when the pH of precipitation is lowered below a pH of 5

Air Pollution: considered to be any substance released into the atmosphere in harmful amounts

Condensation Nuclei: pieces of dust, dirt, ash, etc. around which ice and water droplets collect

Conduction: transfers heat through direct contact between two objects

Convection: transfers heat through the movement of fluids or gases in circulation cells

Convection Current: the circulating path of hot water heating & rising and cold water cooling & sinking

Particulate Matter: includes liquid droplets and solid materials suspended in the air

Photochemical Smog: haze created mainly from automobile exhaust interacting with sunlight

Radiation: transfers energy by electromagnetic waves

Temperature Inversion: an increase in atmospheric temperature with altitude

Nitrogen & Phosphorous Cycles

Ammonification: process by which bacteria break the bonds in the nitrogen gas, and combine the free nitrogen atoms with hydrogen to form ammonium

Biogeochemical Cycles
: describe the movement of matter across the surface of the planet, from the geosphere to the atmosphere to the biosphere to the hydrosphere and back again

: the process of converting nitrites, nitrates, and ammonium back into N2 gas

: process by which electricity, in the form of lightning, breaks the strong bond between the N2 molecule, enabling free nitrogen atoms to bond with oxygen in the air to form ammonia, nitrites and nitrates

Nitrogen Cycle
: biogeochemical cycle that circulates the nutrient nitrogen through Earth's spheres

Nitrogen Fixation
: process of converting nitrogen into a form usable by organisms

Nutrient Pollution
: addition of too much nitrogen, typically due to the addition of fertilizers

Phosphorous Cycle
: biogeochemical cycle that circulates the nutrient phosphorous through Earth's spheres

: colonies of bacteria that perform nitrification and ammonification

Carbon Cycle

Carbon Cycle: the movement of carbon from solid to liquid to gas, and from rocks to water to air to organisms

Carbon Sequestering
: methods for storing carbon (especially in the form of carbon dioxide) and preventing excess amounts from reaching the atmosphere

another name for decomposers

: another name for consumers

Biogeochemical Cycles & Earth's Spheres

: the air surrounding the earth, which contains 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and 1% of other trace gases (including carbon dioxide and water vapor)

Atom: smallest portion into which an element can be divided and still retain its properties; made up of a dense positively charged nucleus surrounded by negatively charged electrons

Atomic Number
: number of protons in the nucleus of an atom of an element

Biogeochemical Cycles: the biological, geological, and chemical processes that move an element through the earth's air, water, rocks, and organisms

Biosphere: the part of the planet that supports life

Carbohydrates: macromolecule that has carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen; examples are sugars and starches

Covalent Bond: bond in which electrons are shared between atoms

Electron: subatomic particle that orbits around the nucleus of an atom; has a negative charge

Fossil Fuels: energy products that come from the compressed, liquefied, or vaporized remains of once living organisms; includes coal, oil, and natural gas

Greenhouse Effect: atmospheric process in which certain gases trap heat at earth's surface; allows shortwave radiation in, but blocks infrared (heat, longwave radiation) from leaving the atmosphere

Lipids: macromolecule that makes up fats, oils, and waxes

Neutron: subatomic particle found in the nucleus of an atom; has no charge

Nucleic Acid: macromolecule made of a sugar, a nitrogen base, and a phosphate group; usually forms chains

Organic carbon: carbon found in living or once living organisms

Protein: macromolecule made up of chains of amino acids

Proton: subatomic particle found in the nucleus of an atom; has a positive charge
Last modified: Tuesday, 6 March 2012, 8:25 AM