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How does acid precipitation form?

1 Answer
Nov 25, 2014

Acid precipitation is often caused by the release of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere where they combine with atmospheric gases and water to create more acidic compounds. These chemicals are released during the combustion of fossil fuels from places like power plants, factories, etc. Acid rain can also be caused by natural phenomena, like volcanoes, but is more commonly caused by humans burning fossil fuels.

These chemicals make the rain or other precipitation more acidic, which has a range of negative effects. The higher acidity damages freshwater sources like streams, rivers, and lakes, by causing a greater absorption of aluminum, making the water more toxic to many species. This hurts those species and many others that depend on them.

Acid rain also damages forests, pulling nutrients out of the soil and making it more challenging for the plants to take up water. This weakens the plants and can have effects throughout the ecosystem.

Here's an image that shows a bit of the process:
US EPA- Public domain