Acid rain can be thought of as any form of precipitation containing an unusually high amount of hydrogen ions, causing the pH levels of the liquid to drop to harmful levels. This resulting precipitation then causes massive harm to living organisms like plants and animals, as well as doing considerable damage to certain building types over long periods. Naturally, rain has an acidic pH due to its reaction with carbon dioxide in the air, forming the very weak Carbonate, which is not considered harmful.
Many phenomena in nature are responsible for the production of extremely low pH rains that can be devastating to life in the area. One such example of this is the eruption of volcanoes and fumaroles that emit sulfur compounds. These compounds react with moisture in the air to create liquids with a pH as low as 2 and are capable of clearing an area of vegetation in a short space of time. Another cause of naturally occurring low pH precipitation is lightning. When high voltage electricity passes through the air, it can ionize nitrogen molecules causing them to react with water molecules forming nitric acid, a major source of fixed nitrogen for agricultural crops.
Nature is not the only source of acid rain, in fact, man has done quite a good job at creating it as well and we have suffered many consequences as a result. Most cases of low pH precipitation stem from factories and machinery that burn fossil fuels, such as trucks and cars. The emissions of these machinery travel high into the atmosphere, reacting with moisture and return to earth as highly harmful acid rain, reeking widespread havoc on surrounding farms and wildlife. During the early stages of industrialization, very little was done to curb the effects of these emissions on the environment. Now, governments have enacted many laws and regulations which have since then helped to reduce the damage form acid rain and maybe one day, we could get rid of it entirely.
As human beings, it is our nature to affect the environment in ways that benefit us, however, it is equally important to remember that the environment is a complicated system and we should pay closer attention to our actions. In many cases, damage done can be reversed but today, we are witness to an occurrence that seems to already be beyond our control.
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