Acid Rain: its Effect
Acid rain refers
to precipitation that is more acidic (having lower pH levels) than average. In
more detail, acid rain is a type of precipitation that has mixtures of wet and
dry materials coming from the atmosphere, which includes more nitric and
sulfuric acids (Conserve Energy Future: Acid Rain). Acid rain can also be written
as “Acid Deposition” because the acid rain could come down as other
precipitation, for instance, snow. This became a worldwide problem due to the
effects it can have on land, aquatic ecosystems, buildings, vegetation and
more. The acidity of the acid rain will distort the pH levels and break down
elements to harm whatever this type of precipitation touches.
First things first, what is a pH level? The pH level is
short for potential hydrogen, and the level is used to find the acidity of an
aqueous solution. The scale goes from zero to fourteen, and seven being the
most neutral level in the scale. Do not think that the drop from seven to six
could be overlooked at. The higher the level (over level 7), it contains more
oxygen, and more alkaline it is. Lower the level (below level 7), it becomes
more acidic and contains less oxygen. Do not think that dropping one level in
the pH scale won’t make a big difference, “…the pH scale is a logarithmic
measure. This means that every pH change of one is a tenfold change in acid
content.” (“The Environment: Acid Rain”). Rain, for instance, should be around
5.3 to 6.0 pH level of acidity, a little acidic but not too much to harm things
drastically. However, if the rain’s level falls from the average level, it is
considered as acid rain.
Two types of sources create acid rain: natural sources and artificial
(Man-Made) sources. Natural sources include things like volcanic emissions,
lightning strikes, wildfire, and decaying vegetation. Artificial sources
include things like gas emissions from cars and industrial buildings.
There are two kinds of acid depositions. There is wet
deposition and dry deposition. As the name speaks, wet deposition is something
like acid rain, where it drops down as precipitation or any corrosive and
acidic liquid is injected into something. Meanwhile, dry depositions are things
like ash, gases, and pollutants, which are then deposited onto surfaces of the
earth. Simply put, acid rain is made acidic because of the nitrogen oxides
(NOx) and sulphur dioxide (SO2)
coming out from nature and most likely, artificial sources.
Acid rain affects the world in many different aspects.
However, five main problems are caused by the acid rain. Those five are Aquatic
Ecosystem, Forests, Soil, Vegetation and Plantation and Architectural.
Aquatic ecosystems require the perfect pH level of the water
for them to survive properly. If the pH level of the water decreases because of
the new acidity level they must encounter due to acid rain, many of the species
will die quickly or eventually, or they must evolve to be able to survive the
change. However, many will not be able to live for that long.
What’s happening to the trees in forests when the acid rain
hits? The precipitation will make the trees weaker to defend against diseases,
weather conditions, and if they do die, they will harshly affect the food chain
and the food web, especially bugs and worms which are right next to the trees
and leaves in the food web. It may also halt the growth of the trees for a
Soil’s pH level will fall when acid rain interacts with the
ground, lessening the acidity level of the soil. Now, what does this have to do
with vegetation and plantation? When the soil’s acidity level changes, all
microorganisms which cannot adapt to the drastic change will all die. Minerals
like calcium and magnesium can be swept off as well. This means a big deal for
all vegetation and plantation. If they don’t have the minerals and organisms in
the soil which helps them to grow correctly, they will die off eventually. If
the acidic fog or rain physically hits the plant, it will harm the cycle of the
plantation, which means the growth will stop and death of the plants may occur
Architecture is pretty essential in the modern days. Acid
rain is here to slow us down though. Acid rain can react with the building
materials, which can destroy them and break them down faster. Weaker
substances, like limestone, are the most affected. This will make the buildings
weaker. Older architectural structures could have irreplaceable damage, think
of the ancient Egyptian pyramids.
In Canada, the most severed part of the country is in
eastern Canada (Ontario, Quebec, New Foundland and Labrador, New Brunswick,
Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island). The lakes, streams, rivers, and seas of
eastern Canada contain less natural alkalinity. That means the ability to try
to equal out the acidity and alkalinity will be harder for them to fix
themselves into their preferred acidity.
The scientists all around the world are trying to figure out
the situation and want to end at least the artificial sources that we create to
slow down the acid rain. Since we know that nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides
mix with hydrogen and oxygen to generate the acidity of the acid rain, one solution
is that we can try to minimalize the use of the machines which blows out the
compounds that they mentioned. So, the leaders around the world ordered the
factory workers to trap all the pollutants and use clean smokestacks to lessen
the nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide emissions to decrease the chance of the
falling of this precipitation. The cars will be switched to electric usage cars
in viable countries (That said, Canada will take significantly longer time than
other countries to switch to electric vehicles) to cease the pollutant
emissions as well.
In conclusion, acid rain is a devastating condition that us
humans amplified. The problems are continuing to make their lives, make our
lives, harder. The nitrogen and sulphur emission will keep rampaging and will
harm the things we need to live. However, people all around the world is trying
to put a stop to this by conserving energy to purify this problem for us to
have a better future.