Impact of Acid Rain on Ozone Layer

Editorials News | Jun-06-2024

Impact of Acid Rain on Ozone Layer

Air pollution and global warming are two environments issues that can be said to have attracted attention in the last few decades. In most cases, they are discussed separately, but their integration holds a perspective that can make a big impact on the environment. 

What is Acid Rain?

Acid rain entails rain with higher hydrogen ion concentration (low pH) than normal rainwater; hence, it is more acidic. This is mainly a result of the release of sulfur dioxide (SO₂) and nitrogen oxides (NOₓ) to the atmosphere through the combustion of fossil fuels, industrial activities as well as volcanic activities. These pollutants combine with water vapor and similar chemicals in the air and undergo a chemical change to transform into sulfuric and nitric acids, with the falling precipitation referred to as acid rain.

The Ozone Layer:

Brief History

Situated about 10-30 km above the surface of the earth, this layer protecting life on the planet from the major part of the UV radiation emitted by the sun. Without the ozone layer, the UV radiation would have a high impact to the life forms; skin Cancer, Cataracts and impacts on ecosystems.

How does acid rain impact the ozone layer?

In a ghoul, acid rain and substances that gives rise to it participates in influencing atmospheric chemical composition. Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides are known to cause aerosol formations these are the tiny particles of suspended solid or liquid droplets in the atmosphere. These aerosols can present surfaces for chemical processes that use ozone depleting substances, hence causing the break down of ozonosphere molecules.

Role of Nitrogen Oxides:
These are compounds with nitrogen and oxygen in various stages of oxidation. NOₓ are designated partners in both the formation of acid rain and the depletion of the ozone layer. NOₓ compounds possess the ability of catalysis in the destruction of ozone molecules. These compounds, after being released into the stratosphere, significantly result in a more thinned stratospheric ozone layer, especially in the polar region during the winter and spring season.

Impact on Stratospheric Clouds:
In polar regions, if pollutants from the acid rain deposit themselves on the ground, they can interact chemically with water vapor to form PSCs. These clouds make a base for the photosynthesis that liberates chlorine and bromine from the man made items such as the CFCs into active forms that can destroy the ozone.

Broader Environmental Consequences

The two works have shown that the effects of acid rain are not only enhanced by the interaction but are also, in a way, related to the depletion of the ozone layer. 

A thinner ozone layer results in increased UV radiation reaching the Earth's surface, which can exacerbate the environmental and health problems caused by acid rain:

Damage to Vegetation:
Higher UV intensity can have a negative impact on the plant including suppression of the growth, and photosynthesis. Acid rain which is still raining practices an added pressure on plants through stripping the nutrients in the soil and tearing leaves. The above effects can accumulate and cause the emergence of less stable ecosystems.

Aquatic Ecosystems:
Acid rain also reduces the ph level of water sources hence causing the water to become acidic to living organisms in water bodies. Higher UV exposure can also have additional impacts on the aquatic species, mainly on the communities inhabiting the epilimnion layer of the water column.

Human Health:
Acid rain can affect human health in various ways and so is enhanced UV radiation. Acid rain affects humanities respiratory systems, UV henceforth also affects incidences of skin cancer and eye diseases such as cataracts.

In conclusion, Acid rain and the ozone layer show how one environmental concern is linked to another in a chain effect. Solving the challenges highlighted necessitates a solution that entails controlling the release of SO2, NOx, and CFCs in the atmosphere. The Montreal Protocol, which seeks to eliminate mankind’s production of ozone-depleting chemicals, is good evidence that global agreements can create better impacts on the environment. To sum up, present and future emission control and protection of ozone layer remains the topic that should remain an urgent priority for all countries for the sake of Earth’s well-being and sustainability.

By : Parth Yadav
Anand School of Excellence

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