Monday, January 28, 2013

What are the causes and effects of acid rain on the environment?

Acid rain storms are caused by a number of industrialized countries such as UK, Germany, and Spain. For example, the Scandinavians have been left vulnerable to acid rain storms, admittedly not entirely of their own doing but more due to UK pollutants. Prevailing winds have resulted in the drift of acid rain clouds from the UK over parts of Scandinavia such as Norway. Overall, acid rain storms such as these are due to some of the following factors.

The main industrial process behind acid rain is the burning of fossil fuels. As such, this can include things such as processing of crude oil, iron and steel factories, and utility factories. These industrial processes that involve Sulphur give off Sulphur Dioxide into the atmosphere when it is burned.

While Sulphur is one of the acid rain gases, the other is that of Nitrogen Oxide. Nitrogen Oxide is the other chemical that causes acid rain storms. Such gases are largely produced by the chemical and car and automobile industries.

As such, as these gases have expanded into the atmosphere they then combine with the clouds, or water vapor. When Sulphur is combined with water vapour, Sulphuric acid is formed in the clouds. This can be summarized by the following chemical equation:

SO3 (g) + H2O (l) → H2SO4 (l)

In addition to this, Nitrogen Oxide also combines with water vapour which produces an acid. In this case Nitric acid emerges in the atmosphere, as summarized by this chemical equation:

NO2 + OH· → HNO3

As such, after Nitric and Sulphuric acid have emerged in the atmosphere acid rain storms are sure to follow. These acid rain storms can have some impact in relation to trees, buildings, ecosystems, plants and vegetation, and surface waters.

To begin with acid rain can erode some buildings. Any limestone, sandstone, and marble structures can be dissolved by acid rain during acid rain storms.

Acid rain has an impact in the forests. Acid rain can seep into the soil and neutralize a variety of minerals and nutrients. Toxic substances are then also dissolved into the soil during acid rain storms which can be absorbed by the plantation.

Acid rain also contributes to water pollution. Acid rain leaves chemicals in the water which increases their acidity. Excess Nitrogen in waterways can also result in eutrophication. This in turn can have an impact on the biodiversity of lakes and rivers.

So overall, acid rain is the result of a number of industrial processes involving the burning of fossil fuels and within the chemical industry. The resulting Sulphur and Nitrogen acids then cause acid rain storms in a variety of locations such as in Scandinavia. These storms can then impact buildings, forest ecosystems, and surface waters with their acidic pollutants. As such, protocols such as the Sulphur Emissions Reduction Protocol were introduced in 1979 which have reduced Sulphur Dioxide emissions in Europe.

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