Featured image: Microplastic thread courtesy of M.Danny25 on Wikipedia under CC BY-SA 4.0.
Paper: Ross, P.S., Chastain, S., Vassilenko, E. et al. Pervasive distribution of polyester fibres in the Arctic Ocean is driven by Atlantic inputs. Nat Commun 12, 106 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-20347-1
The Arctic is full of plastic–polyester fibers to be exact. Peter S. Ross and his team found upwards of forty polyester fibers for every cubic meter of the Arctic Ocean’s surface. Their new study in Nature Communications also revealed that these fibers were more common in the East Arctic, which is fed by the Atlantic Ocean, than the West Arctic. The scientists suggest that the presence of these fibers coupled with their uneven distribution throughout the ocean could be due to an unlikely source: home laundry.
Continue reading “There’s microplastics in the Arctic, and we can probably blame home laundry”
Featured Image: Fractured sea ice. Image courtesy Pink Floyd 88 a, accessed through Wikimedia Commons GNU Free Documentation License
Paper: Elevated sources of cobalt in the Arctic Ocean
Authors: Randelle Bundy, Alessandro Tagliabue, Nicholas Hawco, Peter Morton, Benjamin Twining, Mariko Hatta, Abigail Noble, Mattia Cape, Seth John, Jay Cullen, Mak Saito
Imagine navigating the Beaufort Sea to the North Pole, crossing icy and treacherous waters through the untamed North, all to chase a metal that is so rare that you have a better chance of finding 5 grains of sand in an Olympic swimming pool*. This is exactly what Bundy et al. accomplished in their work identifying cobalt amounts in the Arctic Ocean and how these amounts vary based on ocean depth, distance from land, and over a time period of 6 years.
Continue reading “Unveiling the Mysterious Patterns of Arctic Cobalt”
Featured Image: Iceberg in North Star Bay, Greenland by Jeremy Harbeck – NASA, Public Domain
Paper: Subsurface In Situ Detection of Microbes and Diverse
Organic Matter Hotspots in the Greenland Ice Sheet
Authors: Michael J. Malaska, Rohit Bhartia, Kenneth S. Manatt, John C. Priscu, William J. Abbey, Boleslaw Mellerowicz, Joseph Palmowski, Gale L. Paulsen, Kris Zacny, Evan J. Eshelman, and Juliana D’Andrilli
Like the rings of a tree, core samples extracted from glacial ice preserve a unique record of past events. But instead of recording seasonal growth, the ancient ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland have preserved the conditions of long gone climates and ecosystems. Some sheets have continuously accumulated so much snowfall over the past series of millennia that in some places the ice can reach depths that are miles deep. Analyzing this immense glacial record can inform us about not just the global patterns of climate change, but also the evolution of microbial life on Earth, and maybe even the icy worlds of our Solar System.
Continue reading “New instrument maps and preserves frozen habitats on Earth- and potentially icy worlds”
Featured Image: Permafrost thaw slumps draining into a river on the Peel Plateau in western Canada. Photo courtesy Scott Zolkos, lead author of the paper.
Paper: Experimental Evidence That Permafrost Thaw History and Mineral Composition Shape Abiotic Carbon Cycling in Thermokarst-Affected Stream Networks
Authors: Zolkos, Scott & Suzanne E. Tank.
The rivers and streams of the Arctic transfer atmospheric heat into the surrounding permafrost (perennially frozen) soil. At the same time, surface soils up to 1 meter deep undergo annual freeze-thaw cycles. When warmer air arrives in the summer months, the combination of warming air and river water can thaw large chunks of ice-rich permafrost soil along the stream’s edge. Thawed permafrost breaks away from the surrounding hillsides and causes catastrophic slope failures, transporting huge amounts of sediment into the nearby waterways. As the stream water becomes murky it takes on the appearance of chocolate milk, and simultaneously, the geochemistry of the water changes.
Continue reading “Hillsides collapsing into Arctic streams can trigger CO2 release to the atmosphere”
Featured Image: Lake Hazen in front of the Grant Land Mountains – photo courtesy Kyra St. Pierre, a co-author of the Sun et al. paper.
Paper: Glacial melt inputs of organophosphate ester flame retardants to the largest High Arctic lake
Authors: Sun, Yuxin, Amilia O. De Silva, Kyra A. St Pierre, Derek C. G. Muir, Christine Spencer, Igor Lehnherr, John J. MacInnis
Far from human habitation Lake Hazen sits north of the Arctic Circle surrounded by pristine, treeless mountains. But even there, the telltale chemical fingerprints of human pollution can be found.
Spring and summer in the far North are a short three-month period of reawakening, glacial melt, and permafrost thaw. During these months, meltwater transports anything that has collected on top of glaciers, like particles, nutrients, and contaminants deposited from the atmosphere, flowing down rivers and into glacial lakes.
Continue reading “Evidence of pollution all the way to the poles”