Document Type

Book Chapter


Aubrey P. Altshuller

Rich A. Linthurst

Gary B. Blank

Publication Title

The Acidic Deposition Phenomenon and its Effects: Critical Assessment Review Papers, Vol. 1: Atmospheric Sciences


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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Washington, D.C.

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Abstract/ Summary

Precipitation in the Northern Hemisphere has been recently recognized to have hydrogen ion concentrations 10 to 100 times higher than expected for natural precipitation (Likens and Bormann 1974, Cogbill and Likens 1974, Lewis and Grant 1980). However, controversy has arisen regarding the nature of the acidity of the precipitation sampled and whether, indeed, the pH of North American precipitation has increased over time (Miller and Everett 1979, Lerman 1979, Stensland 1980, Sequeria 1981, Carlson and Rodhe 1982). In most locations pH records have been constructed rather imperfectly due to differences in sampling, handling, and analytical procedures used (Galloway and Likens 1976, 1978; Galloway et al. 1979). The lower pH's measured in Northern Hemisphere precipitation are thought to be due to the input of sulfur and nitrogen oxides from fossil fuel-burning (Likens and Bormann 1974) and in some cases hydrogen chloride (Gorham 1958a). Few baseline data, however, are available on the pH of precipitation in areas of the Northern Hemisphere remote from North American and European sources of anthropogenic sulfur emissions. In addition, monitoring records of pH and acidic chemical species are of rather short time duration (~ 15 to 20 years at most), limited geographic coverage, and provide little useful information prior to the early 1960’s (Hornbeck 1981). Baseline studies of pH and related chemical species as well as historical time series data are warranted if they are to understand man’s effect on the environment.

The National Academy of Sciences (1978) recommends that historical studies of glacier snow and ice should be conducted. Such studies are needed to better understand the atmospheric transport of anthropogenically-introduced chemical species to remote areas. In addition, a more recent NAS report (1980) states that a major scientific goal of the 1980’s should be to “identify the significant natural and anthropogenic factors contributing to acid rain.” Detailed glacio-chemical studies should provide this type of needed information.

Snow and ice cores collected from appropriately chosen glaciers provide samples of entrapped chemical species that, unlike those derived from any other medium, are nearly-to- entirely unaltered since their deposition. This technique has barely been applied to the study of acid precipitation despite the fact that it provides a very sensitive record of precipitation chemistry.

Citation/Publisher Attribution

Lyons, W.B., & Mayewski, P.A. (1984). Glaciochemical investigations as a tool in the historical delineation of the acid precipitation problem. In A.P. Altshuller & R.A. Linthurst (Eds.), The Acidic Deposition Phenomenon and its Effects: Critical Assessment Review Papers, Vol. 1: Atmospheric Sciences (pp. 8-71-8-99). (EPA-600/8-83-016AF). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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© Copyright 1984 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


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In Copyright - Educational Use Permitted.