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Acid Rain

Acid Rain

Research papers on acid rain address a number of important environmental questions for the 20th Century. Paper Masters can help you get started on your acid rain research paper or essay by giving you points to address in the paper, like the ones you see below. Paper Masters can also custom write your acid rain research paper for you.

Acid rain has been a threat to the world's ecosystems since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution when machines and industry began spewing out acidic pollution into our atmosphere. However, only in the past few decades has the problem of acidic precipitation fallout been known and studied. The acid rain situation received top billing with environmentalist and politicians throughout the 1980's and 1990's. As a result, laws were passed regulating emissions and the public in general was made aware of the acid rain threat through the media.

Important Items to Address in an Acid Rain Research Paper

Now, in the twenty-first century, the question presents itself: what is the status quo on the acid rain problem? A good research paper will attempt to address that question as well as generally define:

  • What acid rain is?
  • Where is it found?
  • What effects acidic fallout has upon earth's water, trees, plants, animals (to include humans), and man-made structures.
  • Take a look at the progress or lack of progress being made upon the acid rain situation as well as prospects for the future.

What, exactly, is acid rain? According to Envirolink, acid is anysubstance that releases hydrogen ions from another substance in a given solution - thus altering that substance's pH (power of hydrogen). Acid rain is, "...rain [that] becomes more acidic when it reacts with chemicals in air pollution, in particular atmospheric compounds created from sulphur and nitrogen belched from factories, power stations and vehicles". More precisely, acid rain is produced when "... sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides react in the atmosphere to form acidic compounds" When this happens, snow, fog, and rain become a mildly acidic solution of nitric acid and sulfuric acids.

Even unpolluted rain, with an average pH of 5.6, is slightly acidic (pH of 7 being neutral). However, the earth can neutralize (buffer) the slight acidic qualities of normal rainfall through alkaline chemicals found in rocks and soil. Rain that has become increasingly acidic, through atmospheric pollutants, places a strain upon the earth's pH buffering system. After years of exposure to acid rain, the buffering system and natural ecological balance breaks down causing acidic problems in the soil and water and, inevitably, all forms of life that depend upon the earth's soil and water.

One main aspect of acid rain is its tendency to travel. Sulfuric and nitric acids, emitted from factories and automobiles, born up into the air, caught and absorbed by the atmospheric water, is then carried by the wind.

The Effects of Acid Rain

Overall the effects of acid rain on the environment have been devastating. Scandinavia has witnessed the destruction of over 5,000 aquatic ecosystems as a result of acid rain and Ontario Canada has lost fish in an estimated 4,000 lakes and streams. In addition to the destruction of aquatic life, acid rain has also stripped forests in the Jizera Mountains of Czechoslovakia to the point that two-thirds of all fir tress were completely stripped of all of their foliage. While many may argue that these conditions do not affect human life, the reality is that acid rain poses a serious health risk for mankind.

Statistics definitively show that acid rain continues to be an environmental as well as a public health concern. Although this fact is a clear reality, what is perhaps even more apparent is the fact that this phenomenon is the result of man. Arguably, nature produces a large amount of sulfur and nitrogen compounds that are released into the environment; they are produced naturally by the decay of organic matter in swamps, and wetlands. As mentioned above, however, nature has its own system of naturally occurring alkaline chemicals that seek to circumvent the destruction caused by naturally occurring acid pollutants. Acid rain occurs when there are simply too many nitrogen and sulfur pollutants in the air, and this is typically the result of toxic emissions from man made sources. In fact, the destruction of forests in the Jizera Mountains is a direct result of the sulfur dioxide released into the atmosphere from East German coal-fired power stations.

Further exacerbating the problem of acid rain is the fact that, unlike other environmental problems. As a result pollutants rising into the skies of East Germany are carried at the whim of prevailing winds to Czechoslovakia. Current research suggests that the United States also plays a role in this system, as 50 percent of all acid rain that falls in Canada was produced in the U.S. Because of the pollutants ability to travel long distances, often times the areas that produce the pollutants are not affected by the end product.

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