MAY 24, 2017 3:16 PM PDT

What's behind acid rain?


It's raining acid? Acid rain refers to precipitation that is more acidic than normal rain (which itself has a pH of 6, so is already naturally acidic). Acid rain can become so acidic so as to measure a pH of 3 - which means that it is 1,000 times more acidic than normal rain. So why does this crazy phenomenon happen?

Acid rain is caused by a chemical reaction that begins when compounds like sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are released into the air. This emissions mostly come in the form of air pollution from burning fossil fuels and spraying aerosols. According to the EPA, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides dissolve very easily in water and can be carried very far by the wind, which explains why acid rain doesn't always fall where the pollution is made.

The effect that acid rain has on the environment depends greatly on where the rain falls. If it falls on limestone-rich soil, which is alkaline, the soil is able to neutralize the acid, and there won't be much impact on the land. But if the acid rain falls on neutral or already acidic soils, it can be a death sentence for many plants and animals that live there.
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
MAY 22, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Mount St. Helens: 40 Years of Recovery
MAY 22, 2020
Mount St. Helens: 40 Years of Recovery
This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Mount St. Helens volcanic eruption in southwestern Washington. According to ...
MAY 24, 2020
Plants & Animals
The Pistol Shrimp's Secret Weapon...
MAY 24, 2020
The Pistol Shrimp's Secret Weapon...
Pistol shrimp have a unique reputation as one of the ocean’s most intriguing crustaceans. Most are only about the ...
MAY 25, 2020
Plants & Animals
Ever Wonder How Some Fish Produce Electricity?
MAY 25, 2020
Ever Wonder How Some Fish Produce Electricity?
When you hear the term ‘electric fish,’ the first thing that probably comes to mind is the infamous electric ...
JUL 02, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Carbon Nanolattices: Lighter Than (Atomic) Feathers, Tougher Than Diamonds
JUL 02, 2020
Carbon Nanolattices: Lighter Than (Atomic) Feathers, Tougher Than Diamonds
Carbon is known for its plentiful allotropes, such as the naturally existing graphite and diamond, as well as synthetic ...
JUL 31, 2020
Plants & Animals
This Fungus Spreads by Manipulating Male Cicadas into Mimicking Females
JUL 31, 2020
This Fungus Spreads by Manipulating Male Cicadas into Mimicking Females
Researchers from West Virginia University (WVU) recently discovered how a parasitic fungus uses male cicadas to spread i ...
AUG 06, 2020
Plants & Animals
Swine Fever Threatens Critically Endangered Indian Hogs
AUG 06, 2020
Swine Fever Threatens Critically Endangered Indian Hogs
The Associated Press reports that the world's smallest and rarest wild pig species is undergoing its own virus lockd ...
Loading Comments...