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Acid Rain

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ACID RAIN Formation of acid rain Acid deposition, more commonly known as acid rain, occurs when emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) react in the atmosphere with water, oxygen, and oxidants to form acidic compounds. This mixture forms a mild solution of sulphuric and nitric acid which then falls to the earth in either wet (rain, snow, sleet or fog) or dry (gas and particles) form. Approximately one-half of the atmosphere's acidity falls back to earth through dry deposition in the form of particles and gases, and are then spread hundreds of miles by winds where they settle on surfaces of buildings, cars, homes, and trees. When acid rain falls, the dry deposited gases and particles are sometimes washed from buildings, trees and other surfaces making the runoff water combine with the acid rain more acidic than the falling acid rain alone. This new combination is referred to as acid deposition. The runoff water is then transported by strong prevailing winds and public sewer systems into lakes and streams. Although some natural sources such as volcanic eruptions, fire and lightening contribute to the emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides in the atmosphere, more than 90% is the result of human activities ...read more.


Although some plants and animals can survive acidic waters, others are acid-sensitive and will die as the pH declines. Plants and animals living within an ecosystem are highly interdependent. If acid rain causes the loss of acid-sensitive plants and animals, organisms at all trophic levels within the food chain may be affected which then causes a disruption to the entire ecosystem. In New York's Adirondack region, the diversity of life in these acidic waters has been greatly reduced. Fish population has disappeared and loons and otters have moved to other lakes where they can find food. In Canada, over 14,000 lakes have been acidified to the point where they have lost significant amounts of fish. There are two patterns that contribute to the disappearance of fish from acidic bodies of water. The first pattern is known as "acid shock", which is a sudden drop in pH. These pH shocks usually occur in early spring when melting snow releases acidic elements accumulated during the winter into a lake or stream causing a rapid decrease in pH level, which in turn causes fish to die. A second pattern is the gradual decrease in pH level over a prolonged period of time interfering with fish reproduction; therefore, causing decrease in fish population, and a change in size and age of the population. ...read more.


Although a reduction in number of automobiles used is unlikely, regulating the use of specially designed catalytic converters could control emissions. Improvements are being made Thanks to environmental regulations and agreements to control pollution, lakes and streams in North America are beginning to recover from acid rain and life is being restored. In 1995, phase I of the Clean Air Act Amendment was launched. Through this Act, over 400 power plants in the U.S. were instructed to reduce their sulphur dioxide emissions by 3 million tons. Power plants are now instructed to reduce their use of fossil fuels, burn low-sulphur coal or use scrubbers. In 1991, the United States and Canada established the Air Quality Accord that controls the air pollution that flows across international boundaries. In this agreement, acid deposition causing emissions of sulphur are permanently capped in both countries (13.3 million tons for the U.S. and 3.2 million tons for Canada) and plans were implemented for the reduction of nitrogen oxides. Phase II of the Clean Air Act, mandating even steeper cuts in sulphur emissions. The National Atmospheric Deposition Program/National Trends Network (NADP/NTN) has 191 sites across the countries, which measure the emissions of sulphur dioxide. Establishing more organizations such as this will help us understand how and where to combat the acid rain problem. ...read more.

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