How Do Long-Term Declines in Anthropogenic Sulfur Dioxide Emissions and Sulfate Wet Deposition Compare with Trends in Freshwater Chemistry in Scandinavian Rivers?

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för geovetenskaper

Abstract: Acidification of precipitation is an important environmental problem that emerged during the past century, especially after the Second World War. Acidification was primarily caused by human-made emissions of SOx (mostly SO2) and NOx, which are oxidized sulfur and nitrogen gases. The main sources of anthropogenic SOx emissions are non-ferrous ore refining, and the burning of fossil fuels and biofuels. SO2 emitted to the atmosphere combines with water vapor to produce sulfuric acid, which is one of the main compounds responsible for acid precipitation. In the 1970s and 1980s, more strict regulations regarding emissions of air pollutants such as SOx were established in Western Europe and North America, which led to declining levels of SO2 emissions and by this, declining levels of acidification in surface waters. This project was preformed by assembling and analyzing existing, publicly- available datasets of anthropogenic SO2 emissions for the period 1970 to 2010 from ten different regions in the Northern Hemisphere, and compare them with SO42- concentrations in precipitation and river chemistry in Sweden and Norway for the same period. It was discovered that it is the SO2 emissions from Northwestern Europe, the UK & Ireland and from the USA that have the greatest influence over the SO42- concentration in Scandinavian rivers. The SO42- concentration in stream water is also declining faster than the concentration in precipitation, with a faster decline in the southern parts of Scandinavia. 

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