Friday, September 20, 2019 | 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

US, Canada have lost 2.9 b birds, scientists say people to blame

US, Canada have lost 2.9 b birds, scientists say people to blame

Reuters, Washington :From grasslands to seashores to forests and backyards, birds are disappearing at an alarming rate in the United States and Canada, with a 29% population drop since

Iraq's stability on the line as US, Iran tensions soar

Iraq's stability on the line as US, Iran tensions soar

AP, Baghdad :As the United States and Israel escalate their push to contain Iranian influence in the Middle East, countries in Tehran's orbit are feeling the heat.Pro-Iranian militias across

Letter fails to save 30 Afghan farmers killed by US in drone strike

Letter fails to save 30 Afghan farmers killed by US in drone strike

Reuters, Jalalabad :Twelve days ahead of the pine-nut harvest season, the governor of Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province received a letter from village elders in the Wazir Tangi area about

Pompeo favours 'peaceful resolution' to crisis after Saudi oil attack

Pompeo favours 'peaceful resolution' to crisis after Saudi oil attack

AFP, Dubai :The US wants a peaceful solution to the crisis sparked by attacks on Saudi oil installations, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday, after Iran raised the

News In Brief

Russian prosecutors call for jailed actor to be freedAFP, Moscow Russian prosecutors on Thursday asked a court to free a jailed actor and give him a non-custodial sentence in

Tens of thousands join climate protests before UN summit

Tens of thousands join climate protests before UN summit

AP, Canberra :Tens of thousands of protesters joined rallies on Friday as a day of worldwide demonstrations calling for action against climate change began ahead of a U.N. summit

UK, US discuss need for united diplomatic response to Saudi attack

UK, US discuss need for united diplomatic response to Saudi attack

Reuters, London :British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and U.S. President Donald Trump condemned last weekend's attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities and discussed the need for a united diplomatic response

Netanyahu calls on challenger Gantz to form a unity  government together

Netanyahu calls on challenger Gantz to form a unity government together

AFP, Jerusalem :Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on his main challenger Benny Gantz on Thursday to form a unity government together as election results showed both without an obvious

Trudeau admits to racist 'brownface' makeup

Trudeau admits to racist 'brownface' makeup

The Washington Post :Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized Wednesday for wearing brownface and blackface after a yearbook picture surfaced showing him at an Arabian Nights-themed party in 2001, embroiling

US senators urge Trump to end nuclear talks with Saudi Arabia

US senators urge Trump to end nuclear talks with Saudi Arabia

Reuters, Washington :Two Democratic U.S. senators on Wednesday urged Trump administration officials to halt talks with Saudi Arabia on building nuclear reactors after weekend attacks that halved the country's oil