The world's eco-system is maintained by a fragile balance of nature. This balance is increasingly in danger due to numerous environmental concerns, many of which are man-made. One of these largely man-made problems is a phenomenon called acid rain. The term 'acid rain' was first coined by Robert Smith in 1872 after years of studying its relationship with industrial pollution. In order to effectively stop acid rain, both high school students and adults alike must take the time to accurately understand what it is and how it is created.
What is Acid Rain?
The term acid rain may lead some to believe that dangerous pure acid falls from the sky as if it were rain. This is both false and true. Acid rain is rain, however it may also come in the form of snow, mist, or fog. Although technically a variation of rain, it is more acidic than normal rain. It is a combination of water particles and material from pollutants in the air. Acid rain water is dangerous not in the sense that it will melt holes through an umbrella or burn the skin, but rather in the way that it affects the environment.
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- About Acid Rain
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- Acid Rain Definition
Causes of acid rain
There are a number of things that cause acid rain, some of which are natural and others that are man-made. These are generally things that release pollutants into the air. Cars and industrial pollution from power plants and factories are all man-made causes of acid rain. Car exhaust, for example, releases nitrogen oxide into the air, while sulfur dioxide comes from the burning of fossil fuels at power plants. These gases turn into sulfuric acid and nitric acid when they come into contact with water in the air. Natural causes of acid rain include lightning, gases from vegetation that has decayed, and sulfur dioxide from volcanoes.
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The Effects of Acid Rain
The effects of acid rain are far-reaching, and may travel far from the original source of pollution. When it does fall it can have a devastatingly negative effect on wildlife. It affects forests and other plant life, animals, lakes, and even humans. In forests, the plants and trees can be severely damaged by acid rain, fog or mist at higher elevations. For example, acid rain water may reduce the amount of calcium in the soil or increase the amount of aluminum in it, both of which are damaging to trees. In lakes and rivers, certain types of fish cannot survive the acidification of the water, or reproduction and/or the ability to hatch may be reduced. Over time acid rainfall may also corrode items made of stone - such as buildings or even works of art. Humans are not directly affected by acid rainfall. Even if swallowed it will not cause harm; however, the sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides that cause acid rain can negatively impact human health. These pollutants can lead to problems with one's lungs and heart and may even lead to death.
- Acid Rain Background Information and Effects
- Acid Rain - What is it and What Does it Do
- Effects of Acid Rain
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Measuring Acid Rain
Acid rain is measured using the pH scale. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 and is used to measure the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. At the center of that scale the number seven represents neutral. Anything higher than neutral is alkaline, or basic, with each value higher than neutral being ten times more basic. Anything less than neutral is acidic, with each descending value ten times more acidic than the previous higher value. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, (USGS), normal rainfall is slightly less than six on the pH scale. Acid rain, however, can range between 4 and 5.5.
- Measuring Acid Rain
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- Acid Rain: How do we Measure Acid Rain and Other Questions
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How Can We Stop Acid Rain?
Stopping acid rain requires the attention of governments, scientists, industries, and individual citizens around the world. Efforts by scientists, industries and governments should be focused on finding ways to reduce emissions, and both researching and implementing alternative, clean sources of energy as opposed to the burning of fossil fuels. Individual citizens can conserve energy in their daily lives by switching to energy-saving appliances and turning off lights when not in use. Other helpful actions include setting thermostats to 72 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and 68 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. To reduce pollution from vehicles people may choose hybrid, alternate fuel, or low-emissions vehicles when buying a new car. Choosing to walk or bike when possible is one of the best ways that one can help reduce pollution from cars. If buying a new car or eliminating driving entirely is not an option, car pooling or using public transportation can also be helpful.
Written By: Lynn Taylor