Understanding Acidic Precipitation or Acid Rain Essay

495 Words 2 Pages
Understanding Acidic Precipitation or Acid Rain

Our atmosphere functions as living ecosystem of chemical reactions. Through the help of the water cycle, chemicals pass through the atmosphere and are eventually taken up by the soil, surface water, or organic materials. Human beings have added enormously to the atmospheric burden of many toxic substances. The most prominent evidence of this is the presence of acid rain: precipitation and particles that have been made acidic by air pollution. Acid rain is a direct consequence of the atmosphere's self-cleansing process. The tiny droplets of water that make up clouds continuously capture suspended particles and soluble trace gases. Not all trace gases can be removed by precipitation,
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What this boils down to is, as a result only the amount of pollutant in the air determines how much acid is ultimately produced. The acid rain may fall hundreds of miles from the pollution source. Once it hits the ground chemical alterations still go on which can reduce the acidity of the water that will reach lakes and streams. Alkaline soils can neutralize acid directly. In acidic soils two other processes can stop the effects of the acidic pH. The acid can be immobilized as the soil vegetation retains sulfate and nitrate ions (from the nitric and sulfuric acids). It can also be buffered through a process that is known as cation exchange. In cation exchange of calcium, magnesium, and other metals found in many soils takes the place of the acid's hydrogen ions. The source of the metal ions is rock weathering: the dissolving of minerals by precipitation and groundwater containing dissolved carbon dioxide, which gives the positive metal ions with anions of bicarbonate (HCO3 -). Then, when sulfuric acid is added the sulfate (SO4 2-) of the acid can displace calcium and magnesium ions, hydrogen ions responsible for acidity are left behind. The effectiveness of this natural buffer is dependent on the geology of the land. If air pollution, and specifically acid rain, plays a part in forest decline, it

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