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Climate change drawing mercury into Arctic ecosystem: study

Massive cracks from changes in temperature to Arctic sea ice may be actually drawing mercury and other contaminants deep into northern ecosystems, a new scientific research paper claims.


Massive cracks from changes in temperature to Arctic sea ice may be actually drawing mercury and other contaminants deep into northern ecosystems, a new scientific research paper claims.

Co-authored by Environment Canada mercury specialist Alexandra Steffen, who published the findings in the January 15, 2014 edition of the science journal Naturethe paper warns that the mercury could be collecting in dangerous quantities in Canada’s North as the sea ice shifts.

In the paper, “Convective forcing of mercury and ozone in the Arctic boundary layer induced by leads in sea ice,” Steffen wrote that the cracks, which can stretch for hundreds of kilometres, have created a kind of pressurized pumping effect. The effect is so strong that it can draw contaminants from the atmosphere down to surface level. The cracks have also increased as warmer temperatures have thinned the ice, Steffen wrote, noting that the heat from open water is released into the cool Arctic air.

Other contaminants that have long been trapped beneath the sea ice are being released into the atmosphere as the Arctic sea ice cracks and shifts.

For some time, scientists have known that mercury wafts into the North, far from its original source at locations such as coal-fired plants or incinerators.

Steffen’s paper expresses concern over animals being exposed to the mercury, and as a result, the effects of the neurotoxin on the local population who eats the wildlife.


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