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Research paper topic: Acid Rain - 1013 words
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Acid Rain Acid Rain (The Environmental Effects) My first question is , What is Acid Rain? You hear about it all the time in the news and it is very important to the earths ecosystem. In simple terms, acid rain is rain that is more acidic than normal. All objects in nature have a certain level of acicicity but acid rain has too much acid in it. Acid rain is a complicated problem, caused by air pollution. Acid rain's spread and damage involves weather, chemistry, soil, and the life cycles of plants and animals on the land and from acid rain in the water.
Acidity is measured using a pH scale, with the number 7 being neutral. Therefore, a body with a pH value of less than 7 is acidic. On the other hand, a value greater than 7 is basic. The pH of 5.6 has been used as the baseline in identifying acid rain, although this value is controversial, therefore, acid ran is any rainfall that has an acidity level above what is expected in non-polluted rainfall. Any precipitation that has a pH value of less than 5.6 is considered to be acid precipitation. Readings of pH 2.4--as acidic as vinegar--were recorded during storms in New England.
During one particularly acid summer storm, rain falling on a lime-green automobile leached away the yellow in the green paint, leaving blue raindrop shaped spots on the car. Scientists have found that pollution in the air from the burning of fossil fuels is the main cause of acid rain. The major chemicals in air that help to create acid rain are sulfur dioxide, known as (SO2), and nitrogen oxides, known as (NOx). Acid rain is formed high in the clouds where sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides react with water, oxygen, and oxidants. This lethal mixture creates a mild solution of sulfuric acid and nitric acid. Sunlight often increases the speed at which the reaction occur. Rainwater, snow, fog, and other forms of precipitation containing these new solutions of sulfuric and nitric acids fall to earth as acid rain.
Acid rain does not make up all of the acidity that falls back to earth from pollutants. Only half of the acidity in the air falls back to earth through dry deposition as gases and dry particles. The wind blows and then these acidic grains are blown onto buildings, cars, homes, and trees. In some cases, these particles can eat away the objects which they land on. Dry deposited gases are sometimes washed from trees and other surfaces by rainstorms. When this occurs, the runoff water adds the new acids to the acid rain, making a more acidic combination than the falling rain by itself.
One of the main causes of acid rain is the sulfur dioxide. Sulfur dioxide is one of the main ingredients which make up the deadly combination that forms acid rain. Some of the natural sources that emit this gas are rotting vegetation, volcanoes, plankton, rotting animals and sea spray. However, the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, do not help the situation and are largely to blame for approximately half of the emissions of this gas in the world. Water moves through living plants, animal, streams, lakes, and oceans in the hydrologic cycle.
In that cycle, water evaporates from the land and sea into the atmosphere. Water in the atmosphere then condenses to form clouds. Clouds release the water back to the earth as rain, snow, or fog. When water droplets form and fall to the earth, they pick up particles and chemicals that float in the air. Even clean, unpolluted air has some particles such as dust or pollen. Clean air also contains naturally occurring gases such as carbon dioxide.
The interaction between the water droplets and the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere gives rain a pH of 5.6, making even clean rain slightly acidic. Other natural sources of acids and bases in the atmosphere may lower or raise the pH of unpolluted rain. However, when rain contains pollutants, especially sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, the rain water can become very acidic. This problem is a problem of natures balance being tampered with. If not polluted, normal precipitation would react with chemicals that are derived from bedrock in the air, soil, lakes, and streams and this rain would be neutralized. Since the precipitation is highly acidic, these natural buffering chemicals will be destroyed. When this occurs, the natural buffering effect does not occur, and nature wont keep its balance Acid rain has been a big problem for a long time.
Research on acid rain is just starting to make progress. In the past, little was known about the causes and effects of acid rain. Lakes, rivers, oceans, and other aquatic ecosystems are largely affected by acid rain. The reason why acid rain has such a large affect on aquatic ecosystems is because there as so many routes in which acidic chemicals can enter the water. Chemical substances enter the water in different ways. Some of the ways acidic chemicals enter waterways are as dry particles.
These chemicals can also get into the water in forms such as rain, hail, dew, fog and snow. Another way that acids enter the lakes is called spring acid shock. An example of spring acid shock is when snow melts in the spring rapidly as a result of a sudden temperature change. The acids in the snow are then put into the soil. The melted snow in return runs off to smaller water sources, and gradually make their way into the larger water ecosystems.
This causes a sudden drastic change in the pH level. The aquatic ecosystem doesnt have time to adjust to the drastic change. This is also very dangerous because in the springtime many aquatic species are reproducing. Some of these species lay their eggs in the water to hatch. The sudden pH change can cause serious deformities in their young or even kill off the whole species since the young spend a lot of their crucial primary life cycle in the water.
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