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 New research calculates capacity of North American forests to sequester carbon
16.07.2018 | University of California - Santa Cruz

nachricht Scientists discover Earth's youngest banded iron formation in western China
12.07.2018 | University of Alberta

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microscopic trampoline may help create networks of quantum computers

17.07.2018 | Information Technology

In borophene, boundaries are no barrier

17.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

The role of Sodium for the Enhancement of Solar Cells

17.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>