Snow Biology – Acid Snow

ambience: River, footsteps walking in snow

In the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, there are still pockets of snow in the late spring and early summer., and that snow could well be acidic. I’m Jim Metzner and this is Pulse of the Planet. The burning of coal and other fossil fuels leads to the creation of acid rain and in colder temperatures – acid snow, which can have a long-lasting harmful effect on the environment.

“Snow is acidic in nature when it falls and with aerosols like nitrious oxides and sulfphur dioxide being involved in our atmosphere, snow brings this down when it falls and this accumulates then in the snow packs.”

Ron Hoham is a professor of biology at Colgate University. During the spring thaw, Ron took us on a tour of the Tugg Hill Plateau in upstate New York.

“Over a winter period a lot of these acidic aerosols are in the snow pack and when the snow melts in the spring, you get what’s called a “flush” of acidic ions coming out and the PH can be hundreds of times more acidic then what is in a neutral environment. And this could have great effect on large ecosystems such as lakes and streams, which is what we’ve seen for the last couple decades in the Adirondacks, where many lakes are so acidified that they are basically lifeless.”

In some ecosystems, the chemistry of the local soil is such that it can counteract the effects of acid snow, but that’s not always the case.

“Acid snow and acid rain are both examples of acid precipitation and in the Adirondacks there is not the neutralizing environment that we have in central New York, which then buffers the acid precipitation there. But up here in the more northern part of New York you’ve got more acidity that accumulates in the environment.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Snow Biology - Acid Snow

In the Adirondacks, summer snow banks are often acidic - the legacy of burning fossil fuels - and it can have a devastating effect on the environment.
Air Date:07/04/2007
Scientist:
Transcript:

ambience: River, footsteps walking in snow

In the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, there are still pockets of snow in the late spring and early summer., and that snow could well be acidic. I’m Jim Metzner and this is Pulse of the Planet. The burning of coal and other fossil fuels leads to the creation of acid rain and in colder temperatures - acid snow, which can have a long-lasting harmful effect on the environment.

"Snow is acidic in nature when it falls and with aerosols like nitrious oxides and sulfphur dioxide being involved in our atmosphere, snow brings this down when it falls and this accumulates then in the snow packs."

Ron Hoham is a professor of biology at Colgate University. During the spring thaw, Ron took us on a tour of the Tugg Hill Plateau in upstate New York.

"Over a winter period a lot of these acidic aerosols are in the snow pack and when the snow melts in the spring, you get what's called a "flush" of acidic ions coming out and the PH can be hundreds of times more acidic then what is in a neutral environment. And this could have great effect on large ecosystems such as lakes and streams, which is what we’ve seen for the last couple decades in the Adirondacks, where many lakes are so acidified that they are basically lifeless."

In some ecosystems, the chemistry of the local soil is such that it can counteract the effects of acid snow, but that's not always the case.

"Acid snow and acid rain are both examples of acid precipitation and in the Adirondacks there is not the neutralizing environment that we have in central New York, which then buffers the acid precipitation there. But up here in the more northern part of New York you’ve got more acidity that accumulates in the environment."

Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.