Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Climate change will increase the accumulation of DDT in the Arctic

13.03.2015

Max Planck scientists show how persistent pollutants will accumulate in the Arctic in the future.

Many organic pollutants that originate from industrial and technical processes, are persistent and are not degraded in the environment. This poses a hazard for the environment and life even in remote regions of the world. These pollutants include the insecticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane and the polychlorinated biphenyls - better known by their abbreviations, DDT or PCB.


Iceberg in North-East Greenland.

Martha de Jong-Lantink, Flickr, Creative Commons

These molecules are semi-volatile. This means that at room temperature they are mainly gaseous, however, under low temperatures they condense, and later on may re-evaporate. Therefore, the way these pollutants spread in the environment largely depends on meteorological factors such as wind, temperature and precipitation. These substances mainly arrive in the Arctic via air currents. There they remain particularly persistent.

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and the Universities of Hamburg and Cambridge have now investigated which impact climate changes. have on the circulation of these substances in the Arctic. There, climate changes particularly rapidly. The research group headed by Gerhard Lammel from the Institute in Mainz chose three persistent substances that globally had been produced in large quantities: DDT, PCB 153 and PCB 28.

In the 1970s, DDT was the most widely used insecticide, however, it was later banned in most countries in the world due to its hormone-like effect on many biota. PCBs were frequently used as plasticizers in plastics and as insulation material, for example in transformers. As they are carcinogenic, they were banned in the 1980s. All three molecules are easily soluble in fat and therefore accumulate in human and animal tissue.

The researchers simulated the Arctic flow conditions with the aid of a coupled atmosphere-ocean-model. Based on the distribution of emissions since the start of industrial production around 1950, and the assumption of future expected residual emissions as well as the future climate, the model calculated which pollutants will flow over the Arctic Circle at the end of this century.

The findings surprised the researchers: Measurements have shown that since the peak pollutant emissions in the last century, less and less DDT and PCP molecules are arriving in the Arctic. However, the forecasts predict that this trend will reverse for DDT around the year 2075 and more DDT will arrive in the Arctic.

This effect will be amplified by climate change. PCBs on the other hand, will not see an increased northward flow across the Arctic Circle, however, the decline rate will level off. Substances do behave differently, because their involvement in processes of cycling in the environment, across, ice, soils, water and air, differs.

The model runs provided another important result. Scientists can now explain why the concentration of persistent pollutants in the atmosphere above Svalbard correlates with the so-called Arctic Oscillation, whereas this is not the case above Greenland. The Arctic Oscillation is a regular oscillation of the atmosphere above the Arctic that creates differences in atmospheric pressure.

It occurs as a result of large temperature differences between the polar region and the temperate mid-latitudes. Pollutant flows from Europe, which correlate positively with the Arctic Oscillation, maintain the concentrations above Svalbard. The pollutant concentrations above Greenland, however, are determined by flows in the Canadian Archipelago, where air currents are in a reverse relation with this oscillation.

In future studies, researchers will investigate other substances’ large-scale distribution, including endosulfan. Endosulfan is an insecticide which replaced DDT in the 1970s, although it is slowly degrading and problematic for the environment, too. It´s use was only restricted in 2013. (SB)

Original publication:
Mega Octaviani, Irene Stemmler, Gerhard Lammel, and Hans F. Graf, Atmospheric Transport of Persistent Organic Pollutants to and from the Arctic under Present-Day and Future Climate, Environmental Science and Technology, DOI: 10.1021/es505636g, 2015

Contact:
Prof. Dr. Gerhard Lammel
Max Planck Institute for Chemistry
Telephone: +49 (0) 6131-3054055
E-mail g.lammel@mpic.de

Dr. Susanne Benner | Max-Planck-Institut für Chemie
Further information:
http://www.mpic.de/

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Supercomputing helps researchers understand Earth's interior
23.05.2017 | University of Illinois College of Liberal Arts & Sciences

nachricht How is climate change affecting fauna in the Arctic?
22.05.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Turmoil in sluggish electrons’ existence

An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.

We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

AWK Aachen Machine Tool Colloquium 2017: Internet of Production for Agile Enterprises

23.05.2017 | Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientists propose synestia, a new type of planetary object

23.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Zap! Graphene is bad news for bacteria

23.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Medical gamma-ray camera is now palm-sized

23.05.2017 | Medical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>