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Acid Rain: What Is It and What Are Its Effects?

Acid rain is a form of pollution that occurs when pollutants, such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides released into the atmosphere. These pollutants react with water and oxygen in the atmosphere to form acids. When these acids are released as rain, snow, fog, or mist, they are referred to as acid rain.

Acid Rain

Why Do We Need To Consider Acid Rain?

Acid rain is a serious environmental issue caused by the release of pollutants into the atmosphere.

This is by emissions from factories, cars, and other sources of air pollution.

The environment can suffer from acid rain. Including causing water pollution, soil erosion, and damage to forests, crops, and other plants.

The rain is acidic because it has a pH level below 5.6 (the lower the pH number, the more acidic).

Some of the most common acids in acid rain include sulfuric acid and nitric acid.

These acids dissolve minerals like calcium carbonate in rocks and soil. This causes them to break down into smaller particles that can wash away with melted snow or rainwater.

These particles are known as suspended particulates (SPM) or dissolved solids (DS).

Acid rain can have many negative effects on wildlife habitats and human health.

With aquatic ecosystems like lakes and streams, SPMs can cause fish kills. This is by coming into contact with gills or dissolving inside fish tissue, causing internal damage.

In soils and vegetation, SPMs can leach nutrients from leaf surfaces, making them less nutritious for animals who eat them.

It has also been linked to human health through inhalation of airborne PM2.

What Causes Acid Rain?

Acid rain is caused by the release of pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere.

These pollutants react with water vapour in the air to form sulfuric and nitric acids. These then fall back to the ground as acid rain.

The pollutants that cause acid rain are emitted by coal-burning power plants and vehicles that use gasoline.

Sulphur dioxide (SO2) is released from smokestacks at these facilities.

And then it reacts with water vapour to form sulfuric acid (H2SO4).

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Nitrogen oxides (NOx) react with moisture in the atmosphere to form nitric acid (HNO3).

Acid rain is a serious environmental concern because it can damage ecosystems and buildings.

When acid rain falls to the ground, it dissolves in water and forms acids that harm plants and animals.

Acidic water can kill fish and destroy trees by making their leaves turn brown or black.

However, these pollutants are not the only ones that vehicles and power plants can release.

Carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and mercury are also emitted because of human activity.

What About Snow and Fog?

Besides rain, other forms of precipitation can contain acids, including snow and fog.

Fog is made up of water droplets that condense around tiny particles in the air.

In its purest form, fog is water vapour that has condensed into liquid form.

But since that’s not very common, fog usually contains some sort of pollutant.

Including sulphur dioxide from coal-burning power plants or nitrogen oxides from cars, which can create acid rain.

Snow is made of water and trace amounts of minerals. It may also contain dissolved gases such as carbon dioxide or sulphur dioxide.

As snow falls through the atmosphere, it picks up tiny particles that may have been emitted by volcanos or pollution sources.

These particles can change the pH level of the snow, which can then be melted into drinking water sources.

The acidity of snow depends on its mineral content. And also, how much pollution has been added by industrial emissions or volcanic activity.

In cities with heavy pollution, snow often has a pH value between 3 and 4, acidic enough to burn human skin if touched directly.

When acidic substances from precipitation drain into a source of drinking water, they lower the pH level of the source water through chemical reactions with minerals in rocks and soils.

Rainwater contaminated by acidic pollutants from power plants or industrial processes can sometimes be treated with lime (calcium oxide). This helps to raise its pH level back to a range safe for human consumption (5-7).

Rain, Snow, And Hail, Chemical Reactions in The Sky

Rain, snow, and hail are formed when water vapour condenses into droplets or ice crystals in clouds.

The water droplets or ice crystals grow by taking up water vapour from their surroundings until they become too heavy to remain suspended in the air.

They then fall as either rain or snow or as hail stones.

The amount of water vapour in the atmosphere determines how much precipitation will fall from clouds.

When there is little water vapour in the air, less precipitation falls from clouds like cirrus and cumulus. As these clouds contain small droplets or ice crystals that are not heavy enough to fall out of the sky.


In contrast, when there is a lot of water vapour in the air, more precipitation falls from clouds like cumulonimbus. Because these clouds contain large droplets or ice crystals that are heavy enough to fall out of the sky.

Raindrops form when warm moist air cools and condenses into tiny droplets of liquid water.

When these droplets become too heavy for their size, they fall out of their cloud at speeds high enough to break apart into smaller drops known as raindrops.

When the air is very humid, drops of water can fall in a process called virga.

Virga is precipitation that evaporates before reaching the ground, forming a thin cloud at high altitudes.

This looks like a “streak” of clouds running vertically down from the top of a storm cloud.

How Does Acid Rain Affect the Environment?

The ecology may suffer because of acid rain. It can cause water pollution, soil erosion, and damage to forests, crops, and other plants.

Acid rain can also lead to the acidification of lakes and streams, which can kill fish and other aquatic life.

The effects of acid rain are most noticeable in rivers and lakes, where it causes the pH level of the water to decrease.

As pH levels decrease, so does the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water.

This means that aquatic animals that need oxygen cannot survive in these waters.

Besides killing fish and other aquatic animals, acid rain also causes damage to plant life.

It does this by leaching nutrients out of the soil and causing leaves to turn yellow and brown from lack of nutrients (this is known as chlorosis).

Acid rain can also change soil chemistry so much that plants cannot take up nutrients from the soil, which leads them to die off as well.

Acid rain is a serious environmental problem. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has defined acid rain as “precipitation containing harmful levels of sulphur or nitrogen compounds that damage plants, animals, lakes and rivers.”

The EPA estimates that acid rain causes around $18 billion in damage each year to crops, forests, buildings and ecosystems.

How Can We Prevent Acid Rain?

The release of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere causes acid rain.

These two pollutants react with water vapour in the air to create a dilute solution of sulfuric acid and nitric acid.

These acids fall back to the earth as rain or snow, where they can damage ecosystems, buildings, and other structures.

The way to prevent acid rain is to reduce the number of pollutants released into the atmosphere.

This is the best way to prevent acid rain. That’s because it’s effective at reducing both sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide emissions.

And burning fossil fuels releases these two pollutants into our atmosphere. So, reducing fossil fuel use will reduce their emissions as well.

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We could also use cleaner technologies in power plants, such as carbon capture and storage systems (CCS).

These systems capture carbon dioxide emissions before they leave a power plant’s smokestack.

This technology is not yet perfected. But it shows great promise for reducing our impact on global climate change as well as acid rain formation.

Reducing emissions from vehicles is also important.

Also, motor vehicles produce the most carbon dioxide emissions.

So, reducing their use or making them more efficient will help reduce acid rain formation.

Acid rain is something we must all be concerned about because it affects us all.

The climate changes that have occurred in the last one hundred years have been directly correlated with the increase of acid rain.

Acid rain is a direct result of the burning of fossil fuels such as coal and oil, which release carbon dioxide into the air.

Carbon dioxide combines with water to form carbonic acid, which finds its way into the earth’s oceans and waterways.

There are many ways to reduce the effects of acid rain.

These include reducing emissions of pollutants. And also planting trees and other vegetation that help to absorb pollutants and using cleaner fuel sources.

We can also promote the use of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, which do not produce pollutants.

Acid rain can have a devastating effect on the environment.

It can damage trees and other vegetation, as well as weaken and corrode buildings, bridges, and other structures.

It can also cause the acidification of lakes and streams, which can lead to the death of fish and other aquatic life.

Acid rain can also cause respiratory problems in humans, as well as damage to crops and other vegetation.


Acid rain is something people may not be familiar with, but it is a serious problem affecting humans and animals around the world.

This type of pollution occurs when sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides react in the atmosphere and make water at the earth’s surface acidic.

It can cause erosion of buildings, plants, and native vegetation. It can also harm fish, like salmon, and other aquatic life.

We all need to make more effort to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we produce to help prevent acid rain from causing more damage.