Acid Rain
Objectives
Describe what acid rain is, its causes, its effects, and possible cures.
In this new module, "Environments and People / Resource Management", you will be taking the knowledge gained from the "Systems of the Earth" module and seeing how humans impact the physical environment and how resources such as the air, water, and soil can be better managed. The first unit deals with global atmospheric threats. The first topic is acid rain.

Introduction

Burning of fossil fuels, especially coal, produces sulphur dioxides and nitrogen oxides which rise into the atmosphere and react chemically with water vapour to form sulphuric acid and nitric acid. These return to earth as acid precipitation.

In Canada, acid rain is particularly bad in Central and Eastern Canada where much industry is located and the prevailing winds from the southwest bring up pollutants from the industrial heartland of the United States. Recall that one of our Major Geography Themes is that pollution knows no borders.

Acid Rain impacts all four spheres - the atmosphere, lithosphere, biosphere, and hydrosphere.



Examples of the Effects of Acid Rain

- eats away at buildings and statues
- leaches away valuable minerals in the soil
- increases toxic materials taken up by plant roots
- contributes to the discharge of aluminum, mercury, and zinc from surrounding watersheds into lakes and rivers

- aluminum and low pH are toxic to rainbow trout
- loss of aquatic species in lakes results in a break in the food chain
- wet desert: lack of vegetation and fish due to the effects of acid rain on an aquatic environment
- acid shock: occurs in the Spring when snow and ice melt releasing stored acid deposits. This occurs at the same time as amphibians (i.e. frogs, toads, salamanders) are being born.


Potential Solutions
- stop using the sky as a garbage dump
eg use scrubbers in coal burning plants
- incorporate, to a larger extent, the concept of global citizenship
eg US Clean Air Act updated in 1990

eg Canada & US Clean Air Treaty (Dec. 2000)

- power plants and industrial sources to cut nitrogen oxide emissions by 50% to 75% by 2004

- Canada plans to tighten vehicle emission standards and bring them into line with the United States

- ultimately, reduce dependency on fossil fuels by using alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, hydro, etc.
- the Kyoto Accord will give impetus to reducing fossil fuel dependency
Planet Earth: A Physical Geography
"Environment Under Stress: Boreal Forests"
Pages 349 to 354


Assignment Work

A) Carefully read the information presented in the Introduction.

B) Read the designated pages in Planet Earth: A Physical Geography and summarize the Solutions given. Also answer Question #7 on page 354.

C) Download, print out, and complete the following Acid Rain assignment.
Place your work in the "Environments and People / Resource Management" section of your notebook. All work in this Module will go in that section of your notebook.

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