Acid Rain Essay

1369 words - 5 pages

Not many things have the ability to kill fish, destroy economies, and deteriorate buildings, but acid rain can do all of that. This lethal precipitation originates from both natural causes and those made by man. It has the potential to destroy ecosystems, including aquatic life and forest life. In addition to harming nature, it can also cause economic problems. However, efforts are being made to minimize the negative effects of acid rain, and they’re working.
Any form of wet or dry deposition from the atmosphere with nitric and sulfuric acid levels higher than normal is considered acid rain. Wet deposition includes, but is not limited to, rain, fog, snow, and mist. If weather conditions in a certain area are wet and acidic chemicals are in the air, the acids will descend towards the ground through wet deposition. On the contrary, areas with dry weather are susceptible to dry deposition; this is when acidic chemicals combine with smoke or dust and fall to the ground. Dry deposited particles adhere to trees, buildings, cars, and other objects. Then, the particles are washed away by rain and result in more acidic runoff (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). All rain is slightly acidic, because carbon dioxide in the air reacts with water to form a carbonic acid. As a result, normal rain has a pH of about 5.6, and any form of precipitation with a pH below that number can be considered acid rain (Chappelka 1).
Acid rain is caused primarily by two gasses: sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides (Lerner and Lerner 2). These gasses are expelled through a plethora of different sources. Humans are largely at fault for releasing these gasses into the air, but some natural causes exist as well. Volcanic eruptions emit large amounts of sulfur dioxide, as well as hydrogen chloride and hydrogen fluoride. Downwind from Kilauea Volcano in 2010, residents experienced strong acid rain because the volcano released about 2000 tonnes of sulfur dioxide (USGS). Other natural sources include lightning, forest fires, and microorganisms found in soil. These sources release nitrates, one of the substances known to raise acidity in rain (Evans 65).
Humans are more responsible for causing acid rain than natural sources. Areas with large populations and heavy traffic are susceptible to acid rain, because car emissions contain high amounts of nitrogen oxides (Lerner and Lerner 2). Industrial pollutants are the leading cause of acid rain; they may raise the acidity of a region’s precipitation more than tenfold (Gorman 13). Power plants burn fossil fuels, like coal and oil, for energy. Sulfur dioxide is a by-product of fossil fuels and is emitted into the air after being burned. Nitrogen oxides are less abundant but are still by-products of the same fossil fuels (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). Both of these gasses raise the acidity in precipitation greatly.
The most traumatic impact that acid rain has is its effects on living organisms and ecosystems. In aquatic...

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