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 Water
 Air
 Land
 Inter relationship between Components
 Sub Components

This is an interesting topic. In this topic, you are supposed to understand

air, water and land as components of environment (elaborate on these three
components as essays, if required). An elementary knowledge of water, air and
land mainly their basics, sources, status and role in earth should be acquired.
We shall be studying technical details of these components in UNIT 2.


In this topic, we need to have a basic knowledge of water in the perspective that
it is an environment component. We will cover the following for the environment
component “water”
• Facts about Water
• Special Properties of Water
• Forms of Water
• Water as an Environment Component

FACTS ABOUT WATER: Most of you should know already and some of you
should be startled to know the following facts related to water.

(1) 70% of the human body is water. (2) Life on earth probably originated in
water. (3) More than half of the world's animal and plant species live in the water.
(4) Almost 75% of the earth is covered in water. (5) The human body needs
2 litres of water a day in our climate; we can last only a few days without water.
(6) Most of our food is water: tomatoes (95%), spinach (91%), milk (90%),
apples (85%), potatoes (80%), beef (61%).
Water is such an environment component and is the most viable and cherished
environment component on comparison with land and air. Normally, water is a
liquid substance made of molecules containing one atom of oxygen and two
atoms of hydrogen (H2O). Pure water has no colour, no taste, no smell, turns to a
solid at 0°C and a vapour at 100°C. Its density is 1 gram per cubic centimetre
(1 g/cm3), and it is an extremely good solvent.


There are a few unique properties of water that make it so unique and necessary
for living things. They are pondered upon in this section.

Water exists in three forms: Water can and only water can exist on our planet
in three physical states (i.e. state of matter) under them ambient conditions that
normally occur. Water can be a liquid (water), a gas vapor (clouds), or a solid

Water has the best thermal properties: Off all fluids, solids and gases, water
has remarkable thermal properties like high latent heat of vaporization, heat
absorption capacity etc. Water has the highest heat capacity of any liquid or
solid, and can absorb a tremendous amount of heat. For this reason, the oceans
of the world tend to vary in temperature much less than land. The average range
of temperatures in the ocean is from -2 degrees to 35 degrees C. On land,
temperatures may vary anywhere from -70 degrees to 57 degrees C. Compare
also the moon, which has no water. Temperatures here range from -155 degrees
to 135 degrees C.Thus, water acts like a heat buffer for the globe. Its ability to
absorb heat at one location and transport it to another locations is extremely
important in moderating the climate of our globe.

Water has a neutral pH: pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a

substance. For our purposes, you just need to know that some liquids are acidic
(having more hydrogen ions) and some are basic (having more hydroxyls, or OH
ions). The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. The lower the pH the greater is the
acidity. Conversely, the higher the pH, the more alkaline is a substance. Pure
water has a pH of 7, which is neutral. This is once again a unique property of

Water’s Density Pressure/Temperature Relationship: The density of liquids

and gases can change depending on the temperature. Increases in temperature
usually decrease the density of substances, i.e. the spaces between the
molecules in the substance expand. Decreases in temperature typically cause
the density to increase, that is, the molecules in the substance get closer
together, i.e. they contract. Variations in density also occur as a function of
pressure. As pressure on a substance increases, its density increases. Where
decreases in pressure occur, substances expand and become less dense. As the
temperature of water decreases, water becomes denser, as expected. However,
at temperatures below 4 degrees C, a very unusual thing happens to water -- it
begins to expand. In other words, the density of water reaches a maximum at 4
degrees C; below and above this temperature, the density of water decreases.
This unusual property of water is what allows ice to float. Because water freezes
below 4 degrees C, i.e. at 0 degrees C, ice is less dense than water. The reason
for this apparent anomaly is that at 4 degrees C, water molecules are packed as
tight as they will go. Any attempt to push them closer together, such as by
lowering the temperature, only makes the water molecules push back harder, i.e.
they repel each other. Water molecules at the freezing point form a crystal lattice
structure, like ice and snow, that is significantly less dense that liquid water.

Water is a polar molecule : Water's unique properties are largely a result of its
simple composition and structure. As
mentioned above, water is composed
of two hydrogen atoms bound to one
oxygen atom. As shown in the
diagram, the two hydrogen atoms are
smaller (the smallest atom there is, in
fact) and they rest on both sides of the
larger oxygen atom at an angle of
105°. When the hydrogen atoms combine with oxygen, they each give away their
single electron and form what is known as a covalent bond. Because electrons
are more attracted to the positively charged oxygen atom, the two hydrogens
become slightly positively charged (they give away their negative charge) and the
oxygen atom becomes negatively charged. This separation between negative
and positive charges creates what is known as a polar molecule, meaning a
molecule that has an electrical charge on its surface somewhere. Although the
water molecule as a whole has no charge, the parts of it, the hydrogen wings and
the oxygen body, do exhibit individual charges.
Water dissolves almost anything: More substances dissolve in water than in
any other liquid. For this reason, water is often called the "Universal Solvent."
The reason for water's excellent dissolving capability relates to its polarity; water
offers positive and negative charges to which other atoms of molecules can
attach. Note how water molecules can surround the positive sodium ion or the
negative chloride ion, the common components of table salt. Water surrounds
positive atoms (or the positive end of a polar molecule) with the negative charge
of the oxygen atom. Around negatively charged atoms or molecules, water
places the positive hydrogen atoms first. Look at the difference in the spacing
between water and positive or negative atoms. Around the sodium atom, the
positive hydrogen atoms are still free to bind with other atoms. However, in the
case of chlorine, the packing of the atoms is tighter. The arrangement of water
molecules around any other atom or molecule leads to differences in water's
ability to dissolve a substance. Hence, some things are easier to dissolve in
water than others. Thanks to this property, water is termed as the universal

It is due to these special properties that water is an indispensable and inevitable

need of the planet.

FORMS OF WATER: Water occurs in various forms such as lakes, groundwater,

clouds etc. With water taking such diverse forms, it is essential to understand
systematically the various forms of water



Fresh Water (L) Aquifers (L) Clouds (G)

Marine Water (L) Aquicludes (L) Precipitation (L)
Glaciers (S) Aquifuges (L)

G- Gas, L – Liquid, S- Solid

environment component and performs the following functions

1. Source of nutrition and energy to all living organisms

2. Maintains temperature throughout the globe
3. It is a medium for living and movement of organisms

In this topic, we need to have a basic knowledge of air in the perspective that it is
an environment component. We will cover the following for the environment
component “water”
• Air and Atmosphere
• Air Composition
• Layers of Atmosphere
• Air as an Environment Component

AIR AND ATMOSPHERE: Air is a homogeneous mixture of gases present all

over the earth that is essential for breathing, maintains heat balance of earth and
stabilizes climate. The cover of air or layer that envelops the earth is known as

AIR COMPOSITION: Air is a mixture of 18 gases which can be listed as below in

terms of % in volume of air.
S.No. GAS % by Volume
1 Nitrogen 78.09
2 Oxygen 20.95
3 Argon 0.93
4 Carbon di oxide (NO2) 0.032
5 Neon 0.0018
6 Helium 0.00052
7 Methane 0.00015
8 Krypton 0.00010
9 Hydrogen 0.000052
10 Nitrogen two oxide (N2O) 0.000021
11 Carbon monoxide (CO) 0.000011
12 Xenon 0.000008
13 Ozone 0.000002
14 Ammonia 0.0000006
15 Nitrogen di oxide (NO2) 0.0000001
16 Nitric Oxide (NO) 0.00000006
17 Sulphur di oxide (SO2) 0.00000002
18 Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) 0.00000002

It would be a tough task for you to memorise all these components with their
percentages. The student is expected to have a fair knowledge by understanding
the composition and able to put forth a minimum the five major gas with

LAYERS OF ATMOSPHERE: The atmosphere is divided into several distinct

spherical layers, or strata, separated by narrow transition zones. The study of
these layers is called aeronomy. The temperature structure of the atmosphere of
the planet behaves in a manner dependent upon the balance between heating
from the sun's incoming radiation, heating from the surface below, and properties
inherent to the gases of the atmosphere itself. Each atmospheric layer is
characterized by differences in chemical composition that produce variations in
temperature. The upper boundary at which gases disperse into space extends to
several hundred kilometers above sea level. The layers are depicted in the
following diagram.

The troposphere is
the atmospheric layer closest to the planet and contains the largest percentage
of mass of the total atmosphere. It is characterized by the density of its air and
an average vertical temperature change of approximately 6 degrees Celsius per
kilometer. In this layer temperature and water vapour composition decrease
rapidly with altitude. Water vapour is important in regulating air temperature
because it absorbs solar energy and thermal radiation from the planet's surface.
The upper boundary of the troposphere ranges in height from 8 km in high
latitudes, to 18 km above the equator. Its height also varies with seasonal
changes; it is highest in the summer and lowest in the winter. A narrow zone
called the tropopause separates the troposphere from the next highest layer
called the stratosphere. Air temperature within the tropopause remains constant
with increasing altitude.

The stratosphere is the second major layer of air in the atmosphere. It resides
between 10 and 50 km above the planet's surface. The air temperature in the
stratosphere remains constant up to an altitude of 25 km. It then increases
gradually to 200-220 degrees Kelvin at the lower boundary of the stratopause,
which is marked by a decrease in temperature. Air temperatures increase with
altitude in the stratosphere, which has a stabilizing effect on atmospheric
conditions. Ozone plays the major role in regulating temperature. Temperatures
increase as the ozone concentration increases. Solar energy is converted to
kinetic energy when ozone molecules absorb ultraviolet radiation in heating the

The mesosphere extends from approximately 50 km to 80 km. It is characterized

by decreasing temperatures, which register at about 190-180 K and at an altitude
of 80 km. Because there are decreased concentrations of ozone and water
vapor, the temperature is lower than in the troposphere or stratosphere.

The thermosphere is located right above the mesosphere, separated by the

mesopause. The temperature in the thermosphere increases with altitudes up to
1000-1500 K. The increase in temperature is due to the absorption of intense
solar radiation by the remaining molecules of oxygen.

The exosphere is the most distant atmospheric layer. It extends to about 960-
1000 km. It is a transitional zone between earth's atmosphere and interplanetary

AIR AS AN ENVIRONMENTAL COMPONENT: As an environmental component,

air performs the following functions.
(i) It is a store house/carrier of oxygen and enables respiration.
(ii) It is a medium for sound and light propagation
(iii) It absorbs the harmful radiations of the sun
(iv) It stabilizes weather and climate


Land (or) Lithosphere refers to the solid layers of rock material on the earth’s
surface, both on the continents and ocean floors. The lithosphere is composed
of the crust, mantle and upper/inner layers. The average thickness of lithosphere
is about 100 km. The crust is thicker in the continents than on the ocean floors.
The crustal layer is of lighter density compared to the interior layers. As the
crustal layer comprises of rocks rich in silica and aluminium, it is called the sial
layer. Below the sial layer lies the mantle which consists of (a) Inner silicate or
sima layer having materials rich in silica and magnesium, and (b) transitional
zone of mixed metals and silicates. The core of the earth consists of metals in
liquid or plastic state because of high temperature and pressure. The core of the
earth has a radius of about 3400 km. As nickel and iron are dominant in the
core, it is called Nife. This accounts for earth’s magnetism.

In case of land, two things are of utmost importance and they determine the
value of thal land. They are (1) rocks that are found above the land level and (2)
soil that is below the ground level

Rock can be defined as a hard material on the earths crust often exposed on the
sources which contains minerals within them. There are three types of rocks.
Igneous Rocks: These rocks are formed by colling of molten magma. Quartz,
Felspar and mica are few examples
Sedimentary Rocks: This type of rock is formed by deposition of weathered
minerals which are derived from igneous rocks. Clay, quartz, iron oxides, calcium
carbonate are some examples.
Metamorphic Rocks: This type of rock is formed by heat and pressure. Quartz,
clay, calcite etc are of this type.
Soils are a mixture of inorganic and organic minerals; the soils are derived from
some parent material. The inorganic part of the soil is formed from rock by
fragmentation or weathering, while organic components of soil are formed by
decomposition and other natural processes.

(1) It is the platform that enables the establishment and movement of living
(2) It is the source to minerals, elements and food production


Air, water and land interact and the vice versa is essential and is the essence
of all activities that take place. In other words, the four spheres – atmosphere,
lithosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere – interact among themselves. This can
be depicted by the following diagram.

There are two kinds of interactions:

1. Interaction between man and environment
2. Interaction between other organisms and environment

There is a vital difference between these two interactions. The organisms adapt
themselves to the environments while man modifies environments to suit
themselves. It would be binding to restrict our study to the relationship between
man and environment.

Man is a part of the biosphere. In the early periods of human history,

human beings were just like any other animal being entirely dependent on the
environment. Food gathering, hunting and fishing could not sustain a large
population. With the development of agriculture food was available in abundance
and permanent settlements came into existence. Mining of coal, iron and other
minerals heralded the Industrial Revolution. These led to the increased
production from fields and factories, and the colonization of new landmasses.
With the tools at his command, man became a master of the environment. Man’s
activities were aimed at satisfying his increasing needs from the environment.
With rapid increase in human population during the last 100 years, his needs
have increased enormously leading to an adverse impact on the physical and
biological environment. Environmental pollution has taken place on a large scale
in industrial and urban areas. These environmental changes pose a threat to
survival of man on the earth. Raw materials and energy are derived from the
environment and useful products are obtained by using “technology”. This
process leads to production of wastes which are returned to nature causing

A key aspect of environmental science is the “interrelatedness” of things,

the influence that one thing, action, or change may have on another living
organisms and the aspects of the environment pertaining directly to them are
called biotic, and other portions of the environment are abiotic. There are
strong interactions among living organisms and the various spheres of the abiotic
environment. To a large extent these are best described by cycles of matter that
involve biological, chemical, and geological processes and phenomena. Such
cycles are called biogeochemical cycles.

Ecology is the science that deals with the relationships between living
organisms with their physical environment and with each other3. Ecology can be
approached from the viewpoints of (I) the environment and the demands it places
on the organisms in it or (2) organisms and how they adapt to their environmental
conditions. An ecosystem consists of an assembly of mutually interacting
organisms and their environment in which materials are interchanged in a largely
cyclical manner. An ecosystem has physical, chemical, and biological
components along with energy sources and pathways of energy and materials
interchange. Thus an understanding of ecology and ecosystem is essential in the
management of modern industrialized societies in ways that are compatible with
environmental preservation and enhancement. This aspect is addressed in the
forthcoming chapters.


There is widespread confusion over the terms sub components of environment.

While some people interpret the following sub components as additional
components to air, water and land, there are a few people who say that it is a
term that refers to the sub divisions of the components air, water and land.

As per the first school of thought, the following are sub components of
1. Light
2. Temperature
3. Sound

Going by sub components (sub divisions) of water, air and land we have the

Sub Components of Water

Ground Water

Sub Components of Land

Inner Layer
Outer Layer

Sub Components of Air

Tropospheric Air
Stratospheric Air
Mesospheric Air
Exospheric Air

From the study of former question papers, it is established that the University
subscribes to the sub components of water, sub components of air and sub
components of land. Therefore the students are requested to follow that school of