Monday, 23 August 2010
When Water Is Trouble
In parts of New England, more than 70 percent of red spruce forests have been damaged not by natural processes, but by civilization's impact on how acidic the rain is.
Numerous lakes in New England and in New York's Adirondacks region have become so acidic that populations of fish and other wildlife have become reduced or have died off altogether.
Acid precipitation comes primarily from two sources: the sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions of coal and oil burning factories (in particular power plants), and the nitric oxide (NO) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions that come mostly from cars, with an assist from factories.
When these compounds rise into the air, they come together with a culprit: an oxygen radical, specifically the hydroxyl radical (OH). In so doing, they are converted to sulfuric acid and nitric acid.
These compounds then combine with the rainwater in clouds, and the result is acidic rain and snow.