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Encyclopedia > Acid rain
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Air pollution
Acid rainAir Quality IndexAtmospheric dispersion modeling • Chlorofluorocarbon • Global dimmingGlobal warming • Haze • Indoor air qualityOzone depletionParticulateSmog
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Radioactive contamination
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Natural environment

The term "acid rain" is commonly used to mean the deposition of acidic components in rain, snow, fog, dew, or dry particles. The more accurate term is "acid precipitation." Distilled water, which contains no carbon dioxide, has a neutral pH of 7. Liquids with a pH less than 7 are acidic, and those with a pH greater than 7 are basic pH. "Clean" or unpolluted rain has a slightly acidic pH of 5.6, because carbon dioxide and water in the air react together to form carbonic acid, a weak acid. The extra acidity in rain comes from the reaction of air pollutants, primarily sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides, with water in the air to form strong acids (like sulfuric and nitric acid). The main sources of these pollutants are vehicles and industrial and power-generating plants. It has been suggested that Pollutant be merged into this article or section. ... Air pollution is a chemical, particulate matter, or biological agent that modifies the natural characteristics of the atmosphere. ... An air quality measurement station in Edinburgh, Scotland The Air Quality Index (AQI) is a standardized indicator of the air quality in a given location. ... Atmospheric dispersion modeling is performed with computer programs that use mathematical equations and algorithms to simulate how pollutants in the ambient atmosphere disperse in the atmosphere. ... Tetrafluoroethane (a haloalkane) is a clear liquid which boils well below room temperature (as seen here) and can be extracted from common canned air canisters by simply inverting them during use. ... Global dimming is the gradual reduction in the amount of global direct irradiance at the Earths surface that was observed for several decades after the start of systematic measurements in 1950s. ... Global warming refers to the increase in the average temperature of the Earths near-surface air and oceans in recent decades and its projected continuation. ... Haze is an atmospheric phenomenon where dust, smoke and other pollutant particles obscure the normal clarity of the sky. ... Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) deals with the content of interior air that could affect health and comfort of building occupants. ... Global monthly average total ozone amount Ozone depletion describes two distinct, but related observations: a slow, steady decline of about 4 percent per decade in the total amount of ozone in Earths stratosphere since around 1980; and a much larger, but seasonal, decrease in stratospheric ozone over Earths... Particulates, alternatively referred to as particulate matter (PM), aerosols or fine particles, are tiny particles of solid or liquid suspended in a gas. ... It has been suggested that Haze be merged into this article or section. ... Raw sewage and industrial waste flows into the U.S. from Mexico as the New River passes from Mexicali, Baja California to Calexico, California Water pollution is a large set of adverse effects upon water bodies such as lakes, rivers, oceans, and groundwater caused by human activities. ... Eutrophication, strictly speaking, means an increase in chemical nutrients -- typically compounds containing nitrogen or phosphorus -- in an ecosystem. ... It has been suggested that Anoxic sea water, Oxygen minimum zone, and Hypoxic zone be merged into this article or section. ... Pumping of highly toxic (dark black) sludge, much seeps back into the ocean in the form of particles. ... Change in sea surface pH caused by anthropogenic CO2 between the 1700s and the 1990s Ocean acidification is the name given to the ongoing decrease in the pH of the Earths oceans, caused by their uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. ... 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Protocol to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution Concerning the Control of Emissions of Nitrogen Oxides or Their Transboundary Fluxes, opened for signature on 31 October 1988 and entered into force on 14 February 1991, was to provide for the control or reduction of nitrogen oxides and... Kyoto Protocol Opened for signature December 11, 1997 in Kyoto, Japan Entered into force February 16, 2005. ... note - abbreviated as Air Pollution opened for signature - 13 November 1979 entered into force - 16 March 1983 objective - to protect the human environment against air pollution and to gradually reduce and prevent air pollution, including long-range transboundary air pollution parties - (48) Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria... This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it. ... 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Since the Industrial Revolution, emissions of sulfur and nitrogen oxides to the atmosphere have increased.[1] Occasional pH readings of well below 2.4 (the acidity of vinegar) have been reported in industrialized areas.[1] Industrial acid rain is a substantial problem in China[2], Eastern Europe, Russia and areas down-wind from them. These areas all burn sulfur-containing coal to generate heat and electricity.[3] The problem of acid rain not only has increased with population and industrial growth, but has become more widespread. The use of tall smokestacks to reduce local pollution has contributed to the spread of acid rain by releasing gases into regional atmospheric circulation. Often deposition occurs a considerable distance downwind of the emissions, with mountainous regions tending to receive the most (simply because of their higher rainfall). An example of this effect is the low pH of rain (compared to the local emissions) which falls in Scandinavia.[4] Vinegar is sometimes infused with spices or herbs—as here, with oregano. ... Pre-1989 division between the West (grey) and Eastern Bloc (orange) superimposed on current national boundaries: Russia (dark orange), other countries of the former USSR (medium orange),members of the Warsaw pact (light orange), and other former Communist regimes not aligned with Moscow (lightest orange). ... It has been suggested that Pollutant be merged into this article or section. ... For other uses, see Scandinavia (disambiguation). ...

Acid rain was first found in Manchester, England. In 1852, Robert Angus Smith found the relationship between acid rain and atmospheric pollution.[5] Though acid rain was discovered in 1852, it wasn't until the late 1960s that scientists began widely observing and studying the phenomenon. Canadian Harold Harvey was among the first to research a "dead" lake. Public awareness of acid rain in the U.S increased in the 1990s after the New York Times promulgated reports from the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire of the myriad deleterious environmental effects demonstrated to result from it.[6] This article is about the City of Manchester in England. ... For other uses, see England (disambiguation). ... Robert Angus Smith (February 15, 1817–May 12, 1884) was a Scottish chemist, who investigated numerous environmental issues. ... The New York Times is an internationally known daily newspaper published in New York City and distributed in the United States and many other nations worldwide. ... Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest is a 7600 acre (31 km²) tract of land in central New Hampshire that functions as an outdoor laboratory for ecological studies. ... Official language(s) English Capital Concord Largest city Manchester Area  Ranked 46th  - Total 9,350 sq mi (24,217 km²)  - Width 68 miles (110 km)  - Length 190 miles (305 km)  - % water 4. ...


Emissions of chemicals leading to acidification

The most important gas which leads to acidification is sulfur dioxide. Emissions of nitrogen oxides which are oxidized to form nitric acid are of increasing importance due to stricter controls on emissions of sulfur containing compounds. 70 Tg(S) per year in the form of SO2 comes from fossil fuel combustion and industry, 2.8 Tg(S) from wildfires and 7-8 Tg(S) per year from volcanoes.[7] The term nitrogen oxide is a general term and can be used to refer to any of these oxides (oxygen compounds) of nitrogen, or to a mixture of them: Nitric oxide (NO), nitrogen(II) oxide Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) Dinitrogen monoxide (N2O) (Nitrous oxide) Dinitrogen trioxide (N2O3) Dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) Dinitrogen... The chemical compound nitric acid (HNO3), also known as aqua fortis and spirit of nitre, is an aqueous solution of hydrogen nitrate (anhydrous nitric acid). ... Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons, primarily coal and petroleum (fuel oil or natural gas), formed from the fossilized remains of dead plants and animals[1] by exposure to heat and pressure in the Earths crust over hundreds of millions of years[2]. The theory that hydrocarbons were formed from these... Fire in San Bernardino, California Mountains (image taken from the International Space Station) A wildfire, also known as a forest fire, vegetation fire, grass fire, or bushfire (in Australasia), is an uncontrolled fire in wildland often caused by lightning; other common causes are human carelessness and arson. ... This article is about volcanoes in geology. ...

Human activity

The coal-fired Gavin power plant in Cheshire, Ohio

The principal cause of acid rain is sulphuric and nitrogen compounds from human sources, such as electricity generation, factories and motor vehicles. Coal power plants are one of the most polluting.Rosemary started to rule the world and controlled the universe. The gases can be carried hundreds of kilometres in the atmosphere before they are converted to acids and deposited. Factories used to have short funnels to let out smoke, but this caused many problems, so now, factories have longer smoke funnels. The problem with this is those pollutants get carried far off, where it creates more destruction. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (2048x1536, 848 KB) The General James M. Gavin plant on the Ohio River. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (2048x1536, 848 KB) The General James M. Gavin plant on the Ohio River. ... Cheshire is a village located in Gallia County, Ohio. ... Electricity generation is the first process in the delivery of electricity to consumers. ...

Chemistry in cloud droplets

When clouds are present the loss rate of SO2 is faster than can be explained by gas phase chemistry alone. This is due to reactions in the liquid water droplets


Sulphur dioxide dissolves in water and then, like carbon dioxide, hydrolyses in a series of equilibrium reactions: Hydrolysis is a chemical reaction or process in which a chemical compound reacts with water. ... Apparatus for carrying out acid-base titration. ...

SO2 (g)+ H2O SO2·H2O
SO2·H2O H++HSO3-
HSO3- H++SO32-

There are a large number of aqueous reactions that oxidize sulfur from S(IV) to S(VI), leading to the formation of sulphuric acid. The most important oxidation reactions are with ozone, hydrogen peroxide and oxygen (reactions with oxygen are catalysed by iron and manganese in the cloud droplets). Illustration of a redox reaction Redox (shorthand for oxidation/reduction reaction) describes all chemical reactions in which atoms have their oxidation number (oxidation state) changed. ... In chemistry, the oxidation state is an indicator of the degree of oxidation of an atom in a chemical compound. ... It has been suggested that Ozone generator be merged into this article or section. ... R-phrases , , , , S-phrases , , , ,, , , , Flash point Non-flammable Related Compounds Related compounds Water Ozone Hydrazine Except where noted otherwise, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 Â°C, 100 kPa) Infobox disclaimer and references Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a very pale blue liquid which appears colourless in... General Name, symbol, number oxygen, O, 8 Chemical series nonmetals, chalcogens Group, period, block 16, 2, p Appearance colorless (gas) very pale blue (liquid) Standard atomic weight 15. ... For other uses, see Iron (disambiguation). ... General Name, symbol, number manganese, Mn, 25 Chemical series transition metals Group, period, block 7, 4, d Appearance silvery metallic Standard atomic weight 54. ...

For more information see Seinfeld and Pandis (1998).[5]

Acid deposition

Processes involved in acid deposition (note that only SO2 and NOx play a significant role in acid rain).

Image File history File links Origins. ... Image File history File links Origins. ...

Wet deposition

Wet deposition of acids occurs when any form of precipitation (rain, snow, etc) removes acids from the atmosphere and delivers it to the Earth's surface. This can result from the deposition of acids produced in the raindrops (see aqueous phase chemistry above) or by the precipitation removing the acids either in clouds or below clouds. Wet removal of both gases and aerosol are both of importance for wet deposition.

Dry deposition

Acid deposition also occurs via dry deposition in the absence of precipitation. This can be responsible for as much as 20 to 60% of total acid deposition.[8] This occurs when particles and gases stick to the ground, plants or other surfaces.

Adverse effects

This chart shows that not all fish, shellfish, or the insects that they eat can tolerate the same amount of acid; for example, frogs can tolerate water that is more acidic (i.e., has a lower pH) than trout.

Acid rain has been shown to have adverse impacts on forests, freshwaters and soils, killing off insect and aquatic lifeforms as well as causing damage to buildings and having possible impacts on human health. Image File history File links Waterspecies. ... Image File history File links Waterspecies. ...

Surface waters and aquatic animals

Both the lower pH and higher aluminum concentrations in surface water that occur as a result of acid rain can cause damage to fish and other aquatic animals. At pHs lower than 5 most fish eggs will not hatch and lower pHs can kill adult fish. As lakes become more acidic biodiversity is reduced. Acid rain has eliminated insect life and some fish species, including the brook trout in some Appalachian streams and creeks.[9] However, there has been some debate on the extent to which acid rain contributes to lake acidity (i.e., that many acid lakes may result primarily from characteristics of the surrounding watershed, and not the rain itself).[10] The EPA's website states: "Of the lakes and streams surveyed, acid rain caused acidity in 75 percent of the acidic lakes and about 50 percent of the acidic streams".[9] Binomial name (Mitchill, 1814) The brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) is a species of fish in the salmon family (family Salmonidae) of order Salmoniformes. ... EPA redirects here. ...


Soil biology can be seriously damaged by acid rain. Some tropical microbes can quickly consume acids[11] but other microbes are unable to tolerate low pHs and are killed. The enzymes of these microbes are denatured (changed in shape so they no longer function) by the acid. The hydronium ions of acid rain also mobilize toxins and leach away essential nutrients and minerals[12] Loess field in Germany Surface-water-gley developed in glacial till, Northern Ireland Technically, soil forms the pedosphere: the interface between the lithosphere (rocky part of the planet) and the biosphere, atmosphere, and hydrosphere. ... A microorganism or microbe is an organism that is so small that it is microscopic (invisible to the naked eye). ... Neuraminidase ribbon diagram An enzyme (in Greek en = in and zyme = blend) is a protein, or protein complex, that catalyzes a chemical reaction and also controls the 3D orientation of the catalyzed substrates. ... Irreversible egg protein denaturation and loss of solubility, caused by the high temperature (while cooking it) Denaturation is the alteration of a protein or nucleic acids shape through some form of external stress (for example, by applying heat, acid or alkali), in such a way that it will no... In chemistry, hydronium is the common name for the cation H3O+ derived from protonation of water. ... For other uses, see Toxin (disambiguation). ... Leaching is the process of extracting a substance from a solid by dissolving it in a liquid. ...

Forests and other vegetation

Effect of acid rain on a forest, Jizera Mountains, Czech Republic
Effect of acid rain on a forest, Jizera Mountains, Czech Republic

Acid rain can slow the growth of forests, cause leaves and needles to turn brown and fall off and die. In extreme cases trees or whole acres of forest can die. The death of trees is not usually a direct result of acid rain, often it weakens trees and makes them more susceptible to other threats. Damage to soils (see above) can also cause problems. High altitude forests are especially vulnerable as they are often surrounded by clouds and fog which are more acidic than rain. Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (960x720, 182 KB) Summary Licensing File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Acid rain Metadata This file contains additional information, probably added from the digital camera or scanner... Image File history File linksMetadata Download high-resolution version (960x720, 182 KB) Summary Licensing File links The following pages on the English Wikipedia link to this file (pages on other projects are not listed): Acid rain Metadata This file contains additional information, probably added from the digital camera or scanner...

Other plants can also be damaged by acid rain but the effect on food crops is minimized by the application of fertilizers to replace lost nutrients. In cultivated areas, limestone may also be added to increase the ability of the soil to keep the pH stable, but this tactic is largely unusable in the case of wilderness lands. Acid Rain depletes minerals from the soil and then it stunts the growth of the plant.

Human health

Some scientists have suggested direct links to human health, but none have been proven.[13]. However, fine particles, a large fraction of which are formed from the same gases as acid rain (sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide), have been shown to cause illness and premature deaths such as cancer and other deadly diseases[14] For more information on the health effects of aerosol see particulate health effects. Particulates, alternatively referred to as particulate matter (PM), aerosols or fine particles, are tiny particles of solid or liquid suspended in a gas. ... Particulates, alternatively referred to as particulate matter (PM), aerosols or fine particles, are tiny particles of solid or liquid suspended in a gas. ...

Other adverse effects

Effect of acid rain on statues
Effect of acid rain on statues

Acid rain can also cause damage to certain building materials and historical monuments. This is because the sulfuric acid in the rain chemically reacts with the calcium compounds in the stones (limestone, sandstone, marble and granite) to create gypsum, which then flakes off. This is also commonly seen on old gravestones where the acid rain can cause the inscription to become completely illegible. Acid rain also causes an increased rate of oxidation for iron.[15] Visibility is also reduced by sulfate and nitrate in the atmosphere.[16] Image File history File links Size of this preview: 800 × 533 pixelsFull resolution (3072 × 2048 pixel, file size: 1. ... Image File history File links Size of this preview: 800 × 533 pixelsFull resolution (3072 × 2048 pixel, file size: 1. ...

Prevention methods

Main article: Automobile emissions control Vehicle emissions inspection station Automobile emissions control covers all the technologies that are employed to reduce the air pollution-causing emissions produced by automobiles. ...

Technical solutions

In the United States, many coal-burning power plants use Flue gas desulfurization (FGD) to remove sulphur-containing gases from their stack gases. An example of FGD is the wet scrubber which is commonly used in the U.S. and many other countries. A wet scrubber is basically a reaction tower equipped with a fan that extracts hot smoke stack gases from a power plant into the tower. Lime or limestone in slurry form is also injected into the tower to mix with the stack gases and combine with the sulphur dioxide present. The calcium carbonate of the limestone produces pH-neutral calcium sulfate that is physically removed from the scrubber. That is, the scrubber turns sulfur pollution into industrial sulfates. A power station (also power plant) is a facility for the generation of electric power. ... Flue gas desulfurization is technology that employs a sorbent, usually lime or limestone, to remove sulfur dioxide(SO2) from the gases produced by burning fossil fuels. ...

In some areas the sulfates are sold to chemical companies as gypsum when the purity of calcium sulfate is high. In others, they are placed in landfill. However, the effects of acid rain can last for generations, as the effects of pH level change can stimulate the continued leaching of undesirable chemicals into otherwise pristine water sources, killing off vulnerable insect and fish species and blocking efforts to restore native life. It has been suggested that Selenite be merged into this article or section. ... Look up landfill in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... Restoration ecology is the study of returning degraded ecosystems and landscapes to a reference state where ecological communities and processes are re-established. ...

International treaties

A number of international treaties on the long range transport of atmospheric pollutants have been agreed e.g. Sulphur Emissions Reduction Protocol under the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution. Protocol to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution on the Reduction of Sulphur Emissions or Their Transboundary Fluxes by at Least 30% opened for signature - July 8, 1985 entered into force - September 2, 1987 objective - to provide for a 30% reduction in sulphur emissions or transboundary fluxes... note - abbreviated as Air Pollution opened for signature - 13 November 1979 entered into force - 16 March 1983 objective - to protect the human environment against air pollution and to gradually reduce and prevent air pollution, including long-range transboundary air pollution parties - (48) Armenia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria...

Emissions trading

A more recent regulatory scheme involves emissions trading. In this scheme, every current polluting facility is given an emissions license that becomes part of capital equipment. Operators can then install pollution control equipment, and sell parts of their emissions licenses. The intention of this is to give operators economic incentives to install pollution controls. Emissions trading (or cap and trade) is an administrative approach used to control pollution by providing economic incentives for achieving reductions in the emissions of pollutants. ...

See also

This is a list of topics related (in whole or in part) to (a) phenomena in the natural environment which have a definite or significantly possible connection with human activity or (b) features of human activity which have a definite or significantly possible connection with the natural environment, even if... Liquid Tension Experiment 2 is the second album by the band Liquid Tension Experiment. ...


  1. ^ a b http://asd-www.larc.nasa.gov/biomass_burn/glossary.html
  2. ^ http://www.saag.org/%5Cpapers20%5Cpaper1944.html
  3. ^ http://www.asl-associates.com/sulphur1.htm
  4. ^ http://www.emep.int/publ/common_publications.html
  5. ^ Cite error 8; No text given.
  6. ^ http://www.hubbardbrook.org/pubs/pub_search.php
  7. ^ Berresheim, H.; Wine, P.H. and Davies D.D., (1995). Sulfur in the Atmosphere. In Composition, Chemistry and Climate of the Atmophere, ed. H.B. Singh. Van Nostran Rheingold ISBN
  8. ^ Cite error 8; No text given.
  9. ^ a b US EPA: Effects of Acid Rain - Surface Waters and own Aquatic Animals
  10. ^ Acid Test: Edward Krug flunks political science; article by William Anderson
  11. ^ Rodhe, H., et. Al. “The Global Distribution of Acidifying Wet Deposition.” Environmental Science & Technology. v. 36 no. 20 (October) p. 4382-8.
  12. ^ US EPA: Effects of Acid Rain - Forests
  13. ^ Cite error 8; No text given.
  14. ^ US EPA: Effects of acid rain - human health.
  15. ^ US EPA: Effects of Acid Rain - Materials
  16. ^ US EPA: Effects of Acid Rain - Visibility

Further reading

  • John McCormick, Acid Earth: The Global Threat of Acid Pollution (London: Earthscan, 1989) ISBN 185383033X

John McCormick is Professor of Political Science at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis(IUPUI), and has been chair since July 2001. ...

External links

  Results from FactBites:
Acid Rain - MSN Encarta (830 words)
Acid Rain, form of air pollution in which airborne acids produced by electric utility plants and other sources fall to Earth in distant regions.
Rain, snow, and fog formed in regions free of acid pollutants are slightly acidic, having a pH near 5.6.
Acid rain has been linked to widespread environmental damage, including soil and plant degradation, depleted life in lakes and streams, and erosion of human-made structures.
acid rain: Definition and Much More From Answers.com (3845 words)
Acid rain is a result of the combination of water with chemicals released into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels.
Acid rain occurs when sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are emitted into the atmosphere, undergo chemical transformations and are absorbed by water droplets in clouds.
Acid rain is sometimes used more generally to include all forms of acid deposition - both wet deposition, where acidic gases and particles are removed by rain or other precipitation, and dry deposition removal of gases and particles to the Earth's surface in the absence of precipitation.
  More results at FactBites »



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