Response of surface water chemistry to reduced levels of acid precipitation: Comparison of trends in two regions of New York, USA

Douglas A. Burns, Michael R. McHale, Charles T. Driscoll, Karen M. Roy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


In light of recent reductions in sulphur (S) and nitrogen (N) emissions mandated by Title IV of the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, temporal trends and trend coherence in precipitation (1984-2001 and 1992-2001) and surface water chemistry (1992-2001) were determined in two of the most acid-sensitive regions of North America, i.e. the Catskill and Adirondack Mountains of New York. Precipitation chemistry data from six sites located near these regions showed decreasing sulphate (SO42-), nitrate (NO3-), and base cation (CB) concentrations and increasing pH during 1984-2001, but few significant trends during 1992-2001. Data from five Catskill streams and 12 Adirondack lakes showed decreasing trends in SO42- concentrations at all sites, and decreasing trends in NO3-, CB, and H+ concentrations and increasing trends in dissolved organic carbon at most sites. In contrast, acid-neutralizing capacity (ANC increased significantly at only about half the Adirondack lakes and in one of the Catskill streams. Flow correction prior to trend analysis did not change any trend directions and had little effect on SO4 2- trends, but it caused several significant non-flow-corrected trends in NO3- and ANC to become non-significant, suggesting that trend results for flow-sensitive constituents are affected by flow-related climate variation. SO42- concentrations showed high temporal coherence in precipitation, surface waters, and in precipitation-surface water comparisons, reflecting a strong link between S emissions, precipitation SO42- concentrations, and the processes that affect S cycling within these regions. NO3 - and H+ concentrations and ANC generally showed weak coherence, especially in surface waters and in precipitation-surface water comparisons, indicating that variation in local-scale processes driven by factors such as climate are affecting trends in acid-base chemistry in these two regions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1611-1627
Number of pages17
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 30 2006


  • ANC
  • Acid precipitation
  • Adirondacks
  • Catskills
  • DOC
  • New York
  • Nitrate
  • Sulphate
  • Surface water chemistry
  • Trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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