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Earth's Hydrosphere andWater Pollution By: Jay-Ar D. Zabala
What is the HYDROSPHERE? The hydrosphere is the liquid water component of the Earth. It includes the oceans, seas, lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. The hydrosphere covers about 70% of the surface of the Earth and is the home for many plants and animals.
The hydrosphere, like the atmosphere, is always in motion. The motion of rivers and streams can be easily seen, while the motion of the water within lakes and ponds is less obvious. Some of the motion of the oceans and seas can be easily seen while the large scale motions that move water great distances such as between the tropics and poles or between continents are more difficult to see. These types of motions are in the form of currents that move the warm waters in the tropics toward the poles, and colder water from the polar regions toward the tropics. These currents exist on the surface of the ocean and at great depths in the ocean (up to about 4km).
The characteristics of the ocean which affects its motion are its temperature and salinity. Warm water is less dense or lighter and therefore tends to move up toward the surface, while colder water is more dense or heavier and therefore tends to sink toward the bottom. Salty water is also more dense or heavier and thus tends to sink, while fresh or less salty water is less dense or lighter and thus tends to rise toward the surface. The combination of the water's temperature and salinity determines whether it rises to the surface, sinks to the bottom or stays at some intermediate depth.
The oceans currents are also affected by the motion of the atmosphere, or winds, above it. The energy in the wind gets transferred to the ocean at the ocean surface affecting the motion of the water there. The effect of wind is largest at the ocean surface.
Water pollution Over two thirds of Earth's surface is covered by water; less than a third is taken up by land. As Earth's population continues to grow, people are putting ever-increasing pressure on the planet's water resources. In a sense, our oceans, rivers, and other inland waters are being "squeezed" by human activities—not so they take up less room, but so their quality is reduced. Poorer water quality means water pollution.
We know that pollution is a human problem because it is a relatively recent development in the planet's history: before the 19th century Industrial Revolution, people lived more in harmony with their immediate environment. As industrialisation has spread around the globe, so the problem of pollution has spread with it. When Earth's population was much smaller, no one believed pollution would ever present a serious problem. It was once popularly believed that the oceans were far too big to pollute. Today, with over 8 billion people on the planet, it has become apparent that there are limits. Pollution is one of the signs that humans have exceeded those limits.
What are the main types of water pollution? When we think of Earth's water resources, we think of huge oceans, lakes, and rivers. Water resources like these are called surface waters. The most obvious type of water pollution affects surface waters. For example, a spill from an oil tanker creates an oil slick that can affect a vast area of the ocean.
Not all of Earth's water sits on its surface, however. A great deal of water is held in underground rock structures known as aquifers, which we cannot see and seldom think about. Water stored underground in aquifers is known as groundwater. Aquifers feed our rivers and supply much of our drinking water. They too can become polluted, for example, when weed killers used in people's gardens drain into the ground. Groundwater pollution is much less obvious than surface-water pollution, but is no less of a problem. In 1996, a study in Iowa in the United States found that over half the state's groundwater wells were contaminated with weed killers.