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Acid rain and its environmental effects: Recent scientific advances

November 3, 2016

The term ‘acid rain’ refers to atmospheric deposition of acidic constituents that impact the earth as rain, snow, particulates, gases, and vapor. Acid rain was first recognized by Ducros (1845) and subsequently described by the English chemist Robert Angus Smith (Smith, 1852) whose pioneering studies linked the sources to industrial emissions and included early observations of deleterious environmental effects (Smith, 1872). Smith's work was largely forgotten until the mid-20th century when observations began to link air pollution to the deposition of atmospheric sulfate (SO42−) and other chemical constituents, first near the metal smelter at Sudbury, Ontario, Canada, and later at locations in Europe, North America, and Australia (Gorham, 1961). Our modern understanding of acid rain as an environmental problem caused largely by regional emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) stems from observations in the 1960s and early 1970s in Sweden by Svante Odén (Odén, 1976), and in North America by Gene Likens and colleagues (Likens and Bormann, 1974). These scientists and many who followed showed the link to emissions from coal-fired power plants and other industrial sources, and documented the environmental effects of acid rain such as the acidification of surface waters and toxic effects on vegetation, fish, and other biota.

Publication Year 2016
Title Acid rain and its environmental effects: Recent scientific advances
DOI 10.1016/j.atmosenv.2016.10.019
Authors Douglas A. Burns, Julian Aherne, David A. Gay, Christopher M.B. Lehmann
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Atmospheric Environment
Index ID 70178109
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New York Water Science Center