Monday, May 25, 2020 | ePaper

Scientists find Arctic Ocean sea ice loaded with microplastics

  • Print


AFP, Paris :
At first glance, it looks like hard candy laced with flecks of fake fruit, or a third grader's art project confected from recycled debris.
In reality, it's a sliver of Arctic Ocean sea ice riddled with microplastics, extracted by scientists from deep inside an ice block that likely drifted southward past Greenland into Canada's increasingly navigable Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
"We didn't expect this amount of plastic, we were shocked," said University of Rhode Island ice expert Alessandra D'Angelo, one of a dozen scientists collecting and analysing data during an 18-day expedition aboard the Swedish icebreaker Oden.
"There is so much of it, and of every kind-beads, filaments, nylons," she told AFP from Greenland, days after completing the voyage.
Plastic pollution was not a primary focus of the Northwest Passage Project, funded by the US National Science Foundation and Heising-Simons Foundation.
Led by oceanographer Brice Loose, the multi-year mission is investigating how global warming might transform the biochemistry and ecosystems of the expansive Canadian Arctic Archipelago. One key question is whether the receding ice pack and influx of fresh water will boost the release into the atmosphere of methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent that CO2.
The Arctic region has warmed twice as quickly as the global average, some two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
Average Arctic sea ice extent set a record low for July, nearly 20 percent below the 1981-2010 average, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported on Thursday.
But plastics has inserted itself onto the research agenda all the same.
"The ubiquity of plastic, for us it was kind of a punch to the stomach," Loose said.
"Just to see what looked like a normal ice core in such a pristine environment chock full of this completely foreign material."
A study published Thursday in Science Advances concluded that a large quantity of microplastic fragments and fibres are transported by winds into the Arctic region, and then hitch a ride Earthward in snowflakes.
At the same time, several million tonnes of plastics find their way each year directly into oceans, where waves and the Sun break them down into microscopic bits over time.

More News For this Category

Prison riot kills 23 in Colombia as Chile enforces virus curfew

Prison riot kills 23 in Colombia as Chile enforces virus curfew

AFP :Panic over the spread of the coronavirus sparked a prison riot in Colombia that killed 23 inmates on Sunday, as Chile became the latest Latin American country to announce

US envoy says Kabul, Taliban in first prisoner exchange talks

US envoy says Kabul, Taliban in first prisoner exchange talks

AFP :The Afghan government and the Taliban on Sunday held their first discussion on arranging prisoner exchanges, a key step in a broader push for peace, the US special envoy

US Secretary of State Pompeo visits Kabul amid multiple crises

US Secretary of State Pompeo visits Kabul amid multiple crises

AFP  :US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in the Afghan capital Kabul on Monday, a pool report said, amid an ongoing political crisis, a raging Taliban insurgency and rising

Queen Elizabeth II moves out of palace as aide tests virus positive

NDTV :The 93-year-old monarch shifted out of the palace to Windsor Castle indefinitely on Thursday as a "precaution" and reports are that she is healthy.The aide is believed to have

Fears Bali will emerge as Indonesia's coronavirus hotspot

Fears Bali will emerge as Indonesia's coronavirus hotspot

Al Jazeera News :Denpasar, Indonesia - Authorities in Bali will allow tens of thousands of people to attend Hindu ceremonies for the island's new year, or Nyepi, celebrations this week

Zero coronavirus cases in North Korea?

Zero coronavirus cases in North Korea?

AFP :North Korea has said it has released almost all the foreigners it quarantined as a precaution.With international focus on the coronavirus, North Korea has doubled down on its missile

Iran leader refuses US help, citing virus conspiracy theory

Iran leader refuses US help, citing virus conspiracy theory

AP, Dubai :Iran's supreme leader Sunday refused U.S. assistance to fight the new coronavirus, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory that the virus could be man-made by America.Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments

N Korea says Trump's letter offers anti-virus cooperation

N Korea says Trump's letter offers anti-virus cooperation

AP, Seoul :President Donald Trump sent a personal letter to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seeking to maintain good relations and offering cooperation in fighting the viral pandemic, Kim's

Netanyahu offers to step down next year in unity deal

Netanyahu offers to step down next year in unity deal

AP, Jerusalem :Israel's prime minister Saturday said he is ready to step down next year as part of a proposed power-sharing agreement with his chief rival meant to steer the

Virus concerns lead to 'public' meetings without the public

Virus concerns lead to 'public' meetings without the public

AP, Jefferson City :First, Oklahoma lawmakers excluded the public from the Capitol because of coronavirus concerns.Then with the public gone, lawmakers made an emergency change to the state's open-meetings law