In today's contemporary world, the phrase "acidic rain" is hardly unheard of. These days, the majority of the world's regions have been affected by the pollution in question. The term refers to precipitation that is much more acidic than the ordinary, as the name implies. It is detrimental not only to the water bodies, such as lakes, streams, and ponds, but also to the flora and fauna that make their homes within the environment in question. Stay with us to know why does acid rain occur, what are the impacts, and ways of prevention.
What is Acid Rain?
Acid rain is made up of water droplets that are extremely acidic due to air pollution, most notably the excessive levels of sulphur and nitrogen emitted by vehicles and industrial operations. Acid rain is sometimes termed acid deposition since this word encompasses various kinds of acidic precipitation.
The pH level of the water droplets, which measures the amount of acidity or alkalinity in the water, is used as a basis for determining acidity. On the pH scale, 0 represents the most acidic, 14 represents the most alkaline, and 7 represents neutrality. A lower pH indicates a more acidic substance, whereas a higher pH indicates an alkaline substance. The pH of regular rainfall ranges from 5.3 to 6.0, and it has a hint of acidity.
There is an abundance of acid deposition in the southeastern region of Canada, the northeastern part of the United States, and large areas of Europe, including some regions of Sweden, Norway, and Germany.
In addition, there is a possibility that acid deposition may have an impact on some regions of South Asia and South Africa in the not-too-distant future. It is imperative that steps be done in order to mitigate the devastating effects that acid rain has brought forth.
Though acid rain is a significant environmental issue that affects many regions of the globe, it is especially prevalent in large portions of the United States and Canada.
Causes of Acid Rain
Acid deposition may be created by naturally occurring sources such as volcanoes.
In the current world, burning of fossil fuels is the primary source of acid deposition because of the emissions of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.
These gases, when released into the atmosphere, combine with the water, oxygen, and other gases that are already there to produce sulfuric acid, ammonium nitrate, and nitric acid, respectively. After then, the wind patterns lead these acids to get dispersed across broad distances, and they eventually return to the land as acid rain or other types of precipitation.
The production of electrical power and the combustion of coal both result in the emission of gases that contribute significantly to acid deposition. Because of this, man-made acid deposition started becoming a big concern throughout the Industrial Revolution.
In 1852, Scottish scientist Robert Angus Smith was the first person to uncover this phenomenon. In that year, he made the connection between acid rain and air pollution in Manchester, England, which is located in the United Kingdom. Though Acid deposition was identified in the 1800s, it began to get major public attention in the 1960s .
In 1972, the phrase "acid rain" was first used to describe this kind of deposition. The "New York Times" began publishing articles in the 1970s detailing issues that were happening in the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest located in New Hampshire. These articles helped bring the issue to the attention of the general public.
Effects of Acid Rain on Environment, Human, and Wildlife
Following their investigations in the Hubbard Brook Forest as well as other locations, researchers discovered a number of significant consequences of acid deposition on both natural and artificial ecosystems.
Impact of Acid Rain on Natural Environment
Aquatic environments are the ones that are most obviously impacted by acid deposition because acidic precipitation falls directly into aquatic environments. Deposition, both dry and wet, washes off of roadways, fields, and forests into bodies of water including lakes, rivers, and streams.
This acidic liquid is diluted when it travels into bigger bodies of water and mixes with the water there. However, over the course of time, acidity may build up and reduce the pH of the body of water as a whole.
In certain regions, acid deposition also causes clay soils to discharge aluminium and magnesium, which further reduces the pH of the soil in those areas. If the pH of a lake falls below 4.8, the plants and animals that live in it are in danger of dying. It is estimated that over 50,000 lakes in the United States and Canada have a pH that is lower than what is considered normal. A pH level that is too low in several hundred of these makes it impossible for any aquatic life to survive.
Acid deposition may have a considerable impact on forests, in addition to having an effect on bodies of water. As a result of the acid rain that falls on trees, the trees may lose their leaves, suffer damage to their bark, and have their growth stifled. Because these portions of the tree have been damaged, they are now more susceptible to attack from pests, diseases, and harsh weather.
Acid rain that falls on the soil of a forest is another source of environmental damage because it messes with the soil's nutritional balance, it kills the microorganisms that live in the soil, and it may occasionally lead to a calcium deficit. Because the humidity in the clouds envelops the trees at higher elevations, these trees are just as vulnerable to the issues that are caused by acidic cloud cover.
Impact of Acid Rain on Man Made Environment
Acid deposition can also have an influence on architectural structures and artistic creations. When acid rain falls on structures, it interacts with the minerals that are present in the stones, which may occasionally cause the stones to deteriorate and wash away.
Deposition of acid may degrade concrete, as well as contemporary structures, automobiles, railroad tracks, aircraft, steel bridges, and pipelines both above and below ground. It can also cause train tracks to become corroded.
How Can We Prevent Acid Rain
Since a big proportion of our electrical source originates from fossil fuels like gas, coal and oil, enormous volumes of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are created which strongly contributes to acid rain.
While burning gasoline mostly accounts for nitrogen emissions, burning coal is the largest contributor to the release of sulphur dioxide. However, contemporary technologies may alleviate this difficulty substantially. There are techniques that may cut gas emission by up to 95 percent .
Another supplemental option is the move from fossil to renewable energy for the production of electricity. Some examples include geothermal, wind, solar or hydroelectric energy sources. By discontinuing the employment of coal, oil and gas, the nitrogen and sulphur emissions might be considerably decreased.
Since the excessive use of pesticides and fertilisers contribute to pollution with nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxides which in turn lead to acid rain, a reduction in the use of these chemicals may help reduce the acid rain issue to a certain degree.
So far we have discussed the causes, efects and preventions of acid rain. There are really numerous things that you can do as an individual to help avoid it. Any effort you may take to preserve energy will minimise the number of fossil fuels that are used to create that energy, hence minimising the creation of acid rain. To fight this major issue, being aware and making the change from an individual perspective have no alternative.