UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
How do acid rain works?
Question Date: 2013-09-01
Answer 1:

There is a small amount of sulfur in coal. When the coal is burned, the sulfur enters the atmosphere as SO2 and SO3 gas. This gas reacts with water vapor to make sulfuric acids. The size of the droplets are VERY, VERY tiny and they get carried into the atmosphere to high levels, where the acid droplets can move for thousands of miles from the smoke stacks. These droplets dissolve in rain water and lower the pH to make acid rain.

Answer 2:

Acid rain happens because of chemicals in the air combining with water to create acids. The most common is carbon dioxide, which makes carbonic acid with rainwater in the atmosphere. This is entirely natural. Fortunately, carbonic acid is such a weak acid that it doesn't do any real damage. Pollution and volcanic eruptions often put sulfur trioxide in the atmosphere, which becomes sulfuric acid in combination with water, which is a very strong acid and causes quite a lot of damage when it happens. Nitrogen-rich pollution can also give rise to nitric acid, which is also strong (and bad).

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2020 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use