The corrosive effect of polluted, acidic city air on limestone and marble was noted in the 17th century by John Evelyn, who remarked upon the Arundel marbles “miserably neglected, & scattredup & downe about the Gardens & other places of Arundell-house, & how exceedingly the corrosive aire of London impaired them”. Since the Industrial Revolution, emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides to the atmosphere have increased.In 1852, Robert Angus Smith was the first to show the relationship between acid rain and atmospheric pollution in Manchester, England. Though acidic rain was discovered in 1852, it was not until the late 1960s that scientists began widely observing and studying the phenomenon. The term “acid rain” was generated in 1972.Canadian Harold Harvey was among the first to research a “dead” lake. Public awareness of acid rain in the U.S increased in the 1970s after the New York Times promulgated reports from the Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire of the myriad deleterious environmental effects demonstrated to result from it.
Occasional pH readings in rain and fog water of well below 2.4 have been reported in industrialized areas. Industrial acid rain is a substantial problem in Europe, China, Russia and areas down-wind from them. These areas all burn sulfur-containing coal to generate heat and electricity.The problem of acid rain not only has increased with population and industrial growth, but has become more widespread. The use of tall smokestacks to reduce local pollution has contributed to the spread of acid rain by releasing gases into regional atmospheric circulation.Often deposition occurs a considerable distance downwind of the emissions, with mountainous regions tending to receive the greatest deposition (simply because of their higher rainfall). An example of this effect is the low pH of rain (compared to the local emissions) which falls in Scandinavia.