Forms of Acid Deposition

Wet Deposition

Wet deposition is what we most commonly think of as acid rain.  The sulfuric and nitric acids formed in the atmosphere fall to the ground mixed with rain, snow, fog, or hail.

Dry Deposition

Acidic particles and gases can also deposit from the atmosphere in the absence of moisture as dry deposition.  The acidic particles and gases may deposit to surfaces (water bodies, vegetation, buildings) quickly or may react during atmospheric transport to form larger particles that can be harmful to human health. When the accumulated acids are washed off a surface by the next rain, this acidic water flows over and through the ground, and can harm plants and wildlife, such as insects and fish.

The amount of acidity in the atmosphere that deposits to earth through dry deposition depends on the amount of rainfall an area receives.  For example, in desert areas the ratio of dry to wet deposition is higher than an area that receives several inches of rain each year.