The occurrence of acid precipitation in many regions of the Northern hemisphere is a consequnece of human interference in the cycles that unite land, water and atmosphere. The oxidation of carbon, sulfur and nitrogen, resulting mostly from fossil fuel burning, rivals oxidation processes induced by photosynthesis and respiration and disturbs redox conditions in the atmosphere. The paper discusses oxidation-reduction reactions, particularly those involving atmospheric pollutants that are important in the formation of acid precipitation. Topics covered are: a stoichiometric model of acid rain formation; sulfur dioxide and ammonia adsorption; acid neutralizing capacity. The paper concludes that explanations of simple chemical equilibria between gases and water aid our understanding of how acidifying gases become dissolved in cloud water, in droplets of falling rain, or in fog. Rigorous definitions of base- or acid-neutralizing capacities are prerequisites to measuring and interpreting residual acidity in dry and wet deposition and for assessing the disturbance caused by the transfer of acid to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. 20 references.