Quantification of Environmental Problems

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Quantification of Environmental Problems

In this problem set, we will explore two fundamental components of expressing and quantifying environmental problems: scientific notation and calculating percentage changes overtimes.

I- SCIENTIFIC NOTATION

Environmental science often deals with very large numbers (e.g., biomass production of a forest) and very small numbers (contamination of an aquifer). To better manage these data, and to decrease errors, scientists have developed a shorter method to express numbers using scientific notation. Scientific notation is based on powers of the base number 10. Thus, for example, an environmental scientist calculates that 146,000,000,000 kilograms of biomass was produced in a test plot during the previous year. Using scientific notation, the number would be:

1.46 X 1011

To write a number in scientific notation for 146,000,000,000:

Step I: place the decimal after the first digit and drop all the zeroes.

46. 000,000,000

Step 2: count the number of places from the decimal to the end of the number. For example:

|1 |. |4 |

|7.2 X 104 |2.1 X 104 |6.4 x F104 |

|6.5 x 104 |4.1 x 104 |7.7 x 104 |

|7.1 X 104 |7.0 X 104 |5.2 x 104 |

|6.6 x 104 |7.3 x 104 |7.2 x 104 |

|6.9 x 104 |5.9 x 104 |7.1 x 104 |

|7.1 x 104 |5.0 x 104 |9.4 x 104 |

|7.5 x 104 |5.1 x 104 |2.1 x 104 |

10. What is the percentage difference between 2002 and 2003 and between 2003 and 2004 based on the annual, average mercury concentration?

11. Why is it important for a member of an environmentally literate society to be able to understand scientific notation and percentages?

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