Acid Rain: What Is Acid Rain?

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What is acid rain? Acid rain or acid deposition is a broad term that describes any acidic form of precipitation from the atmosphere. There are two types of acid deposition: wet and dry. Dry deposition includes acidic particles, gases and dust that are deposited from the atmosphere, whereas wet deposition includes rain, hail, snow and fog. Unlike dry deposition, winds can blow wet deposition hundreds of miles away from the source of emission, making it an issue for everyone. Natural, unpolluted rainwater is slightly acidic, with a pH of around 5.6 due to a natural occurrence of CO2, NO and SO2 substances. Therefore a pH value less than 5.0 is considered to be acid rain. In certain areas of the United States, the pH of rainwater has been measured…show more content…
Natural emission sources of SO2 and NOx include volcanic eruptions and lightening, however unfortunately, there are numerous man-made activities that produce far greater quantities of these gases, such as, the combustion of fossil fuels, industrial manufacturing processes and automobile exhausts. It is estimated that in the atmosphere two thirds of SO2 and one fourth of NOx molecules come from electric power generators alone. Impacts of acid rain: • Soil: Acidification of soil results in K+, Mg+ and Ca+ leaching out of solution, causing nutrient deficiency and loss of soil fertility. • Vegetation: Acid rain causes anatomical alterations in the leaves of tropical trees leaving them venerable to disease. • Aquatic ecosystems: Acid rain makes water bodies, such as streams, rivers and lakes, acidic. At a pH below 5, fish eggs are unable to hatch and a lower pH can kill adult fish as well. This was seen in Canada, as the sport fish population in acidified lakes showed reproductive failure, skeletal deformities and increased mortality rate due to acid rain. In southern Norway during the 1970’s fish were killed in over 20% of the lakes as a result of acid…show more content…
The process of “liming” balances the acidity of surface waters allowing for the survival of many aquatic species and has been extensively used in Sweden to keep water at an optimum pH. However, liming is an expensive processes and has to be done repeatedly (every 3-6 years) and therefore is not considered to be a long-term cure to the broader challenges of acid deposition. • Alternative Energy Sources: Using energy sources such as wind energy, hydropower, solar energy, geothermal energy and nuclear power can offer effective electrical power alternatives instead of burning fossil fuels. • Cleaning up Exhaust Pipes and Smokestacks: Reducing the emissions of SO2 and NOx is the most important solution for acid rain. SO2 emissions are largely accounted for from burning coal while NOx emissions from automobile fossil fuel combustion. Devices known as “scrubbers” can chemically eliminate SO2 from the products leaving smokestacks and can eliminate up to 95% of SO2 gases. Power generation facilities, rather than burning coal, can also burn fuels that emit less SO2, such as natural gas. NOx emissions can be mitigated from automobiles by using catalytic converters or by using a cleaner

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