Acid Rain Paper

Topics: Fossil fuel, Renewable energy, Alternative energy Pages: 5 (1655 words) Published: May 2, 2011
Acid Rain Paper

Acid Rain is classified as rain with a pH lower than 5.7. The pH of normal rainfall is around 5.6; the acidity in this is natural and due to the CO2 and carbonic acid that is present in the atmosphere. Acid rain contains higher amounts of nitric and sulfuric acids compared to normal rainfall.

There are many factors of pollution that lead to acid rain. There are natural pollutants in acid rain including emissions from volcanic and decaying vegetation, but the majority of the pollutants are man-made. Emissions from sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NO) are the main causes of acid rain; both of these are a result of electric power generation and fossil fuel combustion. Burning coal, driving vehicles, CFCs, HAPs, carbon monoxide and many more chemicals cause acid rain when released into the air. Acid rain is formed when these chemicals released into the atmosphere react with water, oxygen and other chemicals to form acidic compounds, resulting in a solution of sulfuric and nitric acid.

The damage caused by acid rain is immeasurable on our society and planet. Acid rain affects aquatic life, land life and even affects the quality of non-living objects. Aquatic life is affected to the greatest extent, because aquatic life does not have an escape from the acidic rain. Once a body of water reaches a specific pH most of the organisms will no longer be able to survive and the entire ecosystem will be corrupted. The acidity of a body of water depends on the size, location and buffer capacity. A land environment is also affected significantly by acid rain. Trees and other vegetation are damaged and weakened by acid rain; a loss of essential nutrients is the main reason for the damage. High altitude and mountain regions are exposed to higher amounts of acid than any other environment because acidic clouds and fog (that is more acidic than the actual acid rainfall) normally surround them. Weakened, aged and very young organisms and vegetation are more susceptible to damage from acid rain than their healthy counterparts for obvious reasons.

Acid rain does not occur to the same extent all over the world. The occurrence of acid rain is directly related to the amount of pollutants being released in many cases. Many regions of the U.S, the southeast region of Canada, Central Europe, parts of Asia and Scandinavia are main areas affected by acid rain. The main reason being that in many of these places there is a high number of factories, power plants and automobiles. But in some cases, such as Scandinavia the reason is that acid rain is mobile and can travel far distances without being released. Acid rain occurs when polluted gasses are trapped in clouds, and these clouds may drift for hundreds or thousands of miles before releasing the precipitation. In most cases the regions with the highest amount of pollution suffer the highest amount of acid rain, but depending on the jet streams and weather fronts, the clouds with the acid rain in them can travel long distances to various locations.

The technology to prevent and diminish acid rain does exist, but in many cases it is very expensive and can sometimes lower the efficiency of a factory or plant. A new technology in the U.S is Flue gas desulfurization (FGD), this is used in many coal-burning power plants and it removes sulfur-containing gases from stack gases. A process similar to this FGD is used in automobiles as well and is called a catalytic converter. A catalytic converter has been required in the U.S for over 20 years and these devices reduced NOx emissions from cars. With both these technologies it is important to maintain them and keep them working properly. With modern day technology there are many other sources of energy besides fossil fuels. Hydropower, nuclear power, wind energy, solar energy and geothermal energy are some examples of these with nuclear and hydropower being used the most in the U.S. These other forms are efficient but have not...
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