Acid Rain

Essay by PolgraA+, August 2004

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Acid rain is a very serious environmental problem that exists today because of high-energy consumption in the industrial world. Acid rain is snow, fog or rain that has been polluted by acid in the atmosphere. Rain is naturally acidic because carbon dioxide, found normally in the earth's atmosphere, reacts with water to form carbonic acid. While "pure" rain's acidity is pH 5.6-5.7, actual pH readings vary from place to place depending upon the type and amount of other gases present in the air, such as sulphur oxide and nitrogen oxides.

Acid rain occurs when sulphur dioxide (SO ) and Nitrogen oxide (NO ) are released into the atmosphere and mix with moisture in the air. Industrial processes and the burning of fossil fuels such as coal-fired power generators and ore smelting are the main culprits for the release of sulphur dioxide. Nitrogen oxide comes into the atmosphere in harmful amounts by the combustion of fuels in vehicles, furnaces (residential and industrial) and boilers.

These are the main causes of acid rain.

The formation of acid rain happens when acidic compounds, mainly SO and NO are released into the atmosphere. The wind then carries the acidic compounds, both wet and dry, across land and water. Sometimes hundreds of kilometres from where the acid was produced. With the help of sunlight the gases react in the atmosphere with water, oxygen and other chemicals to form various acidic compounds in the atmosphere. The result is acid rain that falls back onto the earth by rain or dry surface exposure.

Acid rain is a major problem in areas of high industrial productivity especially coal generated power stations and high transportation problems. Places such as Germany, Japan, China, Parts of Russia, eastern Europe, eastern sides of Canada and North-east America.

The effects of...