A regional acidic cloud/fog water event in the eastern United States

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Abstract

Cloud and fog water constitutes an important hydrological input to specific ecosystems1–3. Recently, questions have been raised about the chemical composition of clouds and fog with reference to their potential role in adding chemicals such as nutrients, mineral acids and trace metals to such ecosystems. There are few data on the chemistry of cloud and fog water; those that exist suggest generally low pH values and high concentrations of major inorganic cations, anions and trace metals4–7, especially when compared with rain water collected from the same or nearby locations8,9. Here we present the first analysis of a widespread, episodic cloud/fog event, using samples collected during August 1984 at six non-urban sites in the eastern United States. The pH was extremely low (2.8–3.09) and concentrations of sulphate and nitrate were 7–43 times greater than those for average precipitation at four eastern sites, and higher than previously reported values for cloud/fog water in the eastern United States. This suggests that such water may add ecologically significant amounts of pollutants and nutrients to many ecosystems in the region.

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