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Acid from the clouds Lake Barkevatn in Aust-Agder county used to have healthy stocks of trout and perch As a result of acid rain the trout stock died out in the mid-1970s and the perch stock at the beginning of the 1980s Precipitation that is polluted by sulphur dioxide SO2 and nitrogen oxides NOX is known as acid rain Acidity is measured in pH units the lower the pH the more acidic the substance Unpolluted rain has a pH of roughly 56 but there are natural variations Acid rain and snow with a pH of about 44 has fallen in southern Norway for many years causing serious environmental damage in many areas The severity of the damage depends more on the total input of sulphur and nitrogen than on the acidity of each raindrop More than 90 per cent of the acid rain that falls over Norway originates in other countries Cuts in emissions have reduced the acidity of rain and snow recently Total emissions of sulphur in Europe were reduced by more than 40 per cent from 1980 to 1993 In the same period Norways emissions were reduced by more than 70 per cent As a result of higher precipitation in recent years sulphur deposition has not dropped as much as might be expected from the reductions in emissions Estimates of how much pollution the environment can absorb without damage are called critical loads Sulphur like nitrogen is essential to all animals and plants The natural sulphur cycle includes volcanic emissions sulphate in sea salts and sulphur compounds produced by marine organisms On a global basis emissions from such sources are of about the same order of magnitude as those from the combustion of fossil fuels coal and oil but like many other essential substances sulphur is harmful in excessive amounts Much of Europe and North
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