Vernier Software and Technology
Vernier Software & Technology

Acid Rain and Its Effect on Surface Water

Figure from experiment 16 from Earth Science with Vernier

Introduction

Acid rain 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. It can also weather away stone buildings and monuments. But why is it more of a problem in some places than others?

To answer this question, let’s first look at how rain becomes acidic. Carbon dioxide, CO2, is a gas found naturally in the air. When CO2 dissolves into rain droplets, it produces a weak acid called carbonic acid, H2CO3. This makes rain slightly acidic naturally. Rain of pH 5 to 6 is common and does not generally cause any problems. When fossil fuels are burned, however, gases such as sulfur dioxide, SO2, are released into the air. When sulfur dioxide dissolves into rain droplets, sulfuric acid, H2SO4, is formed. This rain can be as acidic as pH 4.

In Part I of this experiment, you will study how rain naturally becomes acidic due to CO2 in the air. You will monitor the pH of water as you add CO2 by blowing through a straw. In Part II, you will study the effect of acid rain has on the pH of different water types. The pH will be recorded as sulfuric acid is added dropwise to several different types of water.

Objectives

In this experiment, you will

  • Use a pH Sensor to measure pH.
  • Use a pH Sensor to study the effect of dissolved CO2 on the pH of distilled water.
  • Study the effect on pH of dissolving H2SO4 in various waters.
  • Learn why some bodies of water are more vulnerable to acid rain than others.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment 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 Earth Science with Vernier »

Experiment 16 from Earth Science with Vernier Lab Book

<em>Earth Science with Vernier</em> book cover

Included in the Lab Book

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

Buy the Book

Go to top