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The Rain of Acid

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The Rain of Acid

Big Moose Lake in New York's Adirondack Mountains was known for its population of its trout, landlocked salmon, and whitefish. In 1986, the lake was nearly lifeless although the water still looked sparkling and clear but all the fish were gone even the otters, frogs, crayfish, and fresh water shrimp. Scientist who tested the water discovered it was 288 times more acidic than normal Big Moose Lake remains one of the 200 lakes in Adirondack Park that can no longer support aquatic life because of the acidified waters. Another 300 lakes are in danger. Not only is the wildlife in danger but also the health of the humans living in the area of the lakes. The answer to all of the problems that are occurring in these lakes is acid rain. Acid rain is a serious environmental problem which many people don't anything know about. Acid rain is very big in Southern Canada and Northern United States. Acid rain usually damages forests, steams, and lakes which hurts the plants and animals that live in these environments.

The history of acid rain starts in the 1730's during the industrial revolution. It was not discovered until the 1950's and started being noticed in the 60's and since then it has got worse in the rural areas because the tall chimneys on factories allow the wind to transport the pollutants far away from their sources. Some of the damages that have been done because of the acid rain are almost half of the trees in the famous Black Forest in Germany have been damaged by acid rain. In Sweden drinking water once contained enough copper to make people's hair turn green. The worst to happen, was in London in 1952 very thick acid smog killed 4,000 people. The latest story is the Earthquake in Japan that caused a Tsunami that destroyed some nuclear plants that contaminated the water with radiation that is believed to make people think that acid rain will be carried to the Philippians.

Another important effect of acid rain is the corrosion of materials. Sulfur dioxide is thought to be main agent causing this damage. The Taj Mahal in India one of the ten wonders of the world is being constantly threatened by acid rain, also some other famous statues such as the Lincoln Memorial and Michelangelo's statue of Marcus Aurelius have started deteriorating because of acid rain.

Acid Rain also changes the chemistry of natural systems. It infects important nutrients such as calcium and magnesium out of the soil and carries them into streams and ponds. Acid precipitation draws toxic metals such as mercury and aluminum out of sediments and into water, where the toxic metals can harm fish. Birds breeding in the area of acidified lakes have been poisoned by aluminum which they pick up by eating aquatic insects. Now if another animal was to eat the bird or one of the fish it would be poisoned by the aluminum and this process would continue until it got to humans.

When some one says acid rain they are referring to a mixture of dries and wet deposition from the atmosphere containing higher the normal amounts of nitric and sulfuric acids. These are caused from both natural sources, such as volcanoes and decaying vegetation, and man made sources, primarily emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides resulting from fossil fuel combustion. In the United States, roughly 2/3 of all sulfur dioxide and ¼ of all nitrogen oxides come from electric power generation that relies on burning fossil fuels, for example coal. As the gas passes through the chimneys it then mixes with the surrounding air and is carried by the wind. As it travels in the atmosphere some fur dioxide settles to the ground and is slowly absorbed by soil and plants, but most of it stays in the air for several days. Acid rain occurs when these gases react with the air in the atmosphere with water, oxygen, and other chemicals to form various acidic compounds. A mild solution of nitric acid and sulfuric acid is the result of this. Power plants and other sources release sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, wind can blow these compounds sometimes hundreds of miles away across state and national borders. An estimated 86 percent of the chemicals in the atmosphere that produce acid rain are electric power plants and factories that burn coal to generate electricity. If the acid chemicals in the air are blown into areas where it is really wet, the acid can fall to the ground in forms of rain, snow, fog, or even mist. As this occurs the water acidic flows over and through the ground, it affects a variety of plants and animals. Several factors affect the strength of the acid, including how acidic the water is, the chemistry and capacity of the soils involved. The type of fish, trees, and other living things that rely on the water will be effect by the acid. When areas are dry the acid may become incorporated in to smoke or dust which falls to the ground through dry deposition, sticking to buildings, the ground, homes, cars, and trees. Rainstorms wash off these particles leading to increased runoff. This runoff water makes the resulting mixture more acidic. About half of the acidity in the atmosphere falls back to earth through dry deposition. The acid rain affects the sea also when the water gets polluted almost all of the fish in the water ends up dying. If the acid rain becomes more of a problem the whole sea could be at risk

In the early 1990's acid rain was spreading across the United States. Mostly affecting a strip of land running from western New York east into Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, also a large area of Pennsylvania and other Atlantic states. Acid pollutants have been circling over all of the Midwest even hitting Yellow Stone National Park. In the most seriously afflicted areas, the average of rainfall is about 4 on the pH scale of acidity. Scientists have learned much by tracking the air mass across the continent the have learned that the largest concentrations of sulfur dioxide that enter the atmosphere in the United States come from the upper Mississippi and Ohio valleys, which have many coal burning power plants. As air masses move through this area they pick up sulfur dioxide. Which converts into sulfuric acid in the course of only two to three days. This usually leads to a peak in the acidity of rainfall five hundred to one thousand miles downwind. Other significant sources are the power plants, refineries and automobile in the states between North Carolina and New York. The West has problems to the smelters of nonferrous metals and emissions from cars and trucks are the major sources in the West.

When measuring acid rain they use a scale called pH. The lower a substance's pH, the more acidic it is. Pure water has a pH of 7.0 but normal rain is slightly acidic because carbon dioxide dissolves into it forming weak carbonic acid,



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