Acid rain, also known as acid deposition, is a type of precipitation of water that contains harmful acidic chemicals like sulfuric acid. Acid rain effects the environment in many ways.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, acid rain not only interacts with rain but other forms of precipitation like snow, hail, dust, fog, and gasses.
On the other hand, there are ways people are reducing acid rain. Let us first dive deep into what causes acid rain and the effects it has on society and the environment. This will help you to understand acid rain and what to do to stop it!
Forms Of Acid Rain
There are two forms of acid rain: Wet Deposition and Dry Deposition. Wet deposition is when the wind blows chemicals that are acidic into the air.
This form mostly happens in damp areas. When the weather is wet, all the acid will fall on the ground, scattering it on the earth’s surface.
The other form of acid rain is dry deposition. This is the opposite of wet deposition as this happens in dry areas. Acid is picked up by dust or smoke and will proceed to fall from the sky. Dry deposition not only goes on the ground, but it can stick onto tougher surfaces like buildings, cars, houses, and trees.
Both of these forms of acid rain were discovered in 1852 by Scottish chemist Robert Angus Smith. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the growing phenomenon of acid rain was connected to climate change. So what causes acid rain? This will be answered in the next section.
What Causes Acid Rain?
Since acid rain is connected with climate change, it is noted that man-made sources are one of the reasons why acid rain happens. The biggest man-made activity is air pollution sources. There are three air pollution sources which include :
- Power Generation Facilities
Coal is the key factor in causing acid rain. Coal bonds with water, oxygen, and other chemicals in the atmosphere. On the other hand, it is not just man-made activity that is responsible for acid rain.
It is also been proven by science that nature also causes acid rain. How is that possible? Let us look at a volcano. When volcanoes erupt, they emit acid-producing gasses. Volcanoes acid is a lot stronger than man-made emissions, causing vegetation and health problems for people.
Other than volcanoes, wildfires, decaying vegetation, or biological processes cause acid rain as well. All three of these natural causes release dimethyl sulfide, a biological contributor that contains sulfur-containing elements.
Another example is lightning strikes, however, they produce nitric oxide which will then combine with water molecules.
Precipitation that is 5.2 on the PH scale is considered to be acid rain. The normal PH rate for rain is 5.6. Now that you know how acid rain is created and the main causes, how about the acid rain effects? How does it damage the environment and society?
Effects Of Acid Rain :
There are three major environmental effects acid rain has. Acid rain effects the aquatic environment, the forests, and the soil. Here is more of an in-depth description of how acid rain effects these three environments.
1. The Aquatic Environment
Since acid rain falls from the sky and lands back down on the ground, acid rain can land in water systems like streams, lakes, and rivers. Over time, the acid rain will interact with the water and will eventually lower the PH of the water.
The average PH for water is 4.8. If the PH goes below that number, aquatic plants and animals would have a difficult time thriving in the water.
Examples of acid rain effects for aquatic life are fish eggs cannot hatch, aquatic animals and plants are increasingly eliminated, and low PH kills adult fish.
2. The Forests
Trees are essential for the rainforest. Acid rain heavily affects trees by making them vulnerable to disease, extreme weather, and insects. How does acid rain do that? It pretty much destroys the fundamentals of the tree: the leaves, the bark, and for smaller trees, it destroys their chances of growing.
Acid rain in forests is a huge problem in Eastern Europe which includes Germany, Poland, and Switzerland.
3. Effects On Soil
Acid rain impacts the soil’s chemistry and biology immensely. Much like the water in streams, rivers, and lakes, the soil has a PH number that needs to be met for it to be healthy soil. Acid rain is absorbed into the soil which will enhance the soil’s PH.
Because of this enhancement, acid rain takes away the proper nutrients like calcium and magnesium and will reverse the soil’s biological and chemical activities.
4. Vegetation Cover And Plantations
To add on about how acid rain effects soil, acid rain leaves high levels of dry deposition in higher places like forests that are in mountains.
Acid rain creates fogs and clouds that are highly acidic. Because of this, trees in these high areas are in danger of not being able to grow or die.
Other Effects Of Acid Rain
Besides impacting the environment, acid rain also impacts communities and people. Here are the two major ways acid rain harms people.
Effects On Architecture And Buildings
Acid rain affects buildings, especially ones that are made with limestone, by reacting with minerals which will then break them up.
Because the minerals of the building are being destroyed, the building gets weak and will eventually decay. It isn’t just buildings that are affected by acid rain, but cars, pipes, and steel bridges are susceptible to decay due to acid rain.
Acid Rains Effects On Public Health
Other than causing a serious threat to wildlife, plants, and the environment in general; acid rain also affects people’s health. Acid rain causes eyesight problems, serious health problems in humans such as bronchitis and asthma, and death.
Acid rain also causes problems which include:
- Chipping away paint, deteriorating buildings, and corroding metals.
- Acid rain effects statues, gravestones, monuments, and historic buildings.
- Limestone or marble buildings are in danger of acid rain due to the reaction of the chemicals in acid rain and the building’s material.
- Metals like steel, bronze, copper, and iron are damaged because of acid rain.
With all of these facts about acid rain and how it damages both the environment and communities, you might be asking yourself if there are any ways to decrease or eliminate acid rain for good? Believe it or not, there are possible solutions that the communities are doing around the world to lessen the acid rain effects:
- Cleaning Exhaust Pipes And Smokestacks: This applies to factories. If they can clean pipes or smokestacks that use coal, they can take 92% of SO2 gasses. They clean these pipes by using scrubbers, a type of solution that eliminates SO2.
- Restoring Environments That Were Affected By Acid Rain: To do this, people are using limestone or lime by spreading it into waters that have been damaged by acid rain. From there, the limestone will decrease the PH levels. This method is called liming and it is proven to help not only aquatic life, but also humans by keeping them healthy.
- Alternative Energy Sources: People are starting to use energy sources that do less damage to the environment like wind energy, geothermal energy, solar energy, hydropower, and nuclear power. These alternative energy sources all impact the economy and environment in positive ways.
These are some of the solutions people are doing. You can find more on the internet and we encourage you to learn more about how to decrease acid rain!