Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Soil and Acid Rain

Figure from experiment 12 from Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry


Acid precipitation can be very harmful to the environment. It can kill fish by lowering the pH of lakes and rivers. It can harm trees and plants by burning their leaves and depriving them of nutrients. In addition, it can weather away stone buildings and monuments.

Carbon dioxide, CO2, is a gas found naturally in the air. When CO2 dissolves into water, it produces a weak acid called carbonic acid, H2CO3. This makes precipitation slightly acidic naturally. Precipitation of pH 5 to 6 is common and does not generally cause any problems. Oxides of sulfur and nitrogen released into the air by fossil fuel burning power plants, various industries, and automobiles dissolve into atmospheric water to form acids such as H2SO3 (sulfurous acid), H2SO4 (sulfuric acid), HNO2 (nitrous acid), and HNO3 (nitric acid). The resulting precipitation can be as acidic as pH 4, precipitation with a pH below 5.6 is generally considered to be “acid precipitation.”


In the Preliminary Activity, you will use a pH Sensor to measure the pH of acid rainwater. You will then filter the acid rainwater through soil, collect the resulting filtrate, and measure the filtrate pH as you determine the soil’s influence on acid rainwater pH.

After completing the Preliminary Activity, you will first use reference sources to find out more about acid precipitation, soil pH, and soil buffering capacity before you choose and investigate a researchable question.

Sensors and Equipment

This investigation features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Additional Requirements

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

Standards Correlations

See all standards correlations for Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry »

Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry

See other experiments from the lab book.

1Seasons and Angle of Insolation
2A Local Weather Study
3Investigating Dissolved Oxygen
4Water Quality
5Long Term Water Monitoring
6Water Treatment
7Investigating Salinity
8Soil Temperature
9Soil Salinity
10Soil pH
11Soil Moisture
12Soil and Acid Rain
13Managing Garden Soil Moisture
14Cell Respiration (CO2)
15Biodiversity in Ecosystems
16Biochemical Oxygen Demand
17Water Cycle Column Investigations
18Decomposition Column Investigations
19Ecocolumn Investigations
20Global Warming
21UV Investigations
22Comparing Sunscreens
23Primary Productivity
24Modeling Population Growth
25Insulation Study
26Fossil Fuels
27Energy Conversion
28Wind Power
29Photovoltaic Cells
30Investigation of Passive Solar Heating
31The Effect of Acid Deposition on Aquatic Ecosystems
32Measuring Particulates
33Investigating Indoor Carbon Dioxide Concentrations
34A Pollution Study

Investigation 12 from Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry Lab Book

<em>Investigating Environmental Science through Inquiry</em> book cover

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Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

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