Acid rain is caused by sulfur and nitrogen oxides emanating from power plants or metal refineries. The smokestacks have been built tall so that pollutants dont sit over cities (Figure 1.1). As they move, these pollutants combine with water vapor to form sulfuric and nitric acids. The acid droplets form acid fog, rain, snow, or they may be deposited dry. Most typical is acid rain (Figure 1.2).
ph and acid rain
Acid rain water is more acidic than normal rain water. Acidity is measured on the pH scale. Lower numbers are more acidic and higher numbers are less acidic (also called more alkaline) (Figure 1.3). Natural rain is somewhat acidic, with a pH of 5.6; acid rain must have a pH of less than 5.0. A small change in pH represents a large change in acidity: rain with a pH of 4.6 is 10 times more acidic than normal rain (with a pH of 5.6). Rain with a pH of 3.6 is 100 times more acidic. Regions with a lot of coal-burning power plants have the most acidic rain. The acidity of average rainwater in the northeastern United States has fallen to between 4.0 and 4.6. Acid fog has even lower pH with an average of around 3.4. One fog in Southern California in 1986 had a pH of 1.7, equal to toilet-bowl cleaner. In arid climates, such as in Southern California, acids deposit on the ground dry. Acid precipitation ends up on the land surface and in water bodies. Some forest soils in the northeast are five to ten times more acidic than they were two or three decades ago. Acid droplets move down through acidic soils to lower the pH of streams and lakes even more. Acids strip soil of metals and nutrients, which collect in streams and lakes. As a result, stripped soils may no longer provide the nutrients that native plants need. A pH scale goes from 1 to 14; numbers are shown with the pH of some common substances. A value of 7 is neutral. The strongest acids are at the low end of the scale and the strongest bases are at the high end.
effects of acid rain
Acid rain takes a toll on ecosystems (Figure 1.4). Plants that are exposed to acids become weak and are more likely to be damaged by bad weather, insect pests, or disease. Snails die in acid soils, so songbirds do not have as much food to eat. Young birds and mammals do not build bones as well and may not be as strong. Eggshells may also be weak and break more easily. As lakes become acidic, organisms die off. No fish can live if the pH drops below 4.5. Organic material cannot decay, and mosses take over the lake. Wildlife that depend on the lake for drinking water suffer population declines. Crops are damaged by acid rain. This is most noticeable in poor nations where people cant afford to fix the problems with fertilizers or other technology. Acid rain has killed trees in this forest in the Czech Republic. Acid rain damages cultural monuments like buildings and statues. These include the U.S. Capitol and many buildings in Europe, such as Westminster Abbey. Carbonate rocks neutralize acids and so some regions do not suffer the effects of acid rain nearly as much. Limestone in the midwestern United States protects the area. One reason that the northeastern United States is so vulnerable to acid rain damage is that the rocks are not carbonates. Because pollutants can travel so far, much of the acid rain that falls hurts states or nations other than ones where the pollutants were released. All the rain that falls in Sweden is acidic and fish in lakes all over the country are dying. The pollutants come from the United Kingdom and Western Europe, which are now working to decrease their emissions. Canada also suffers from acid rain that originates in the United States, a problem that is also improving. Southeast Asia is experiencing more acid rain between nations as the region industrializes. Click image to the left or use the URL below. URL: Click image to the left or use the URL below. URL:
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acid rain is caused by __ combining with _ to form ____.
a) ozone; carbon dioxide; carbonic acid b) mercury and iron; water vapor; mercuric and ferrous acids --> c) sulfur and nitrogen oxides; water vapor; sulfuric and nitric acids d) all of the above
a ph scale has numbers from _ to _. neutral is the number ____.
--> a) 1; 14; 7 b) 1; 10; 5 c) 1; 100; 50 d) 1: 28; 14
natural rain has a ph of _____.
a) 4.0 --> b) 5.6 c) 7.0 d) 8.6
a liquid with a ph of 2.0 is ____ more acidic than one with a ph of 4.0.
a) two times b) ten times --> c) 100 times d) 200 times
pollutants emitted from tall smokestacks cause problems because they can create acid rain far from where they were released, in other states or nations.
--> a) true b) false
these types of rocks neutralize acids.
a) granite b) shale c) sandstone --> d) limestone
a big problem crops up when acid rain falls in countries that did not produce it.
--> a) true b) false
--> a) may experience crop damage that they cant control. b) are not affected by acid rain because they do not have many power plants. c) have learned to throw limestone on acid soil to help plants grow. d) all of these.
how are songbirds affected by acid rain?
a) they are killed when the rain touches their feathers. --> b) they do not thrive because their food sources die in the acid soils. c) their eggshells become so thick that the young cant get out. d) all of these.
arid regions do not get enough rain to have problems with acid rain.
a) true --> b) false
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