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Author Topic: Sea Ice Melting Affected by Microplastics?  (Read 662 times)

VaughnAn

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Sea Ice Melting Affected by Microplastics?
« on: June 05, 2019, 06:48:37 AM »
Maybe it is a good idea to start a separate thread for this important discussion?

Nanning, thanks for suggesting on the Stupid Questions thread that I start a new thread about how microplastics might affect sea ice thawing and potentially increase heat retention in seawater due to increased absorption of infrared radiation(IR).

I have watched pond and lake ice melt with debris and plastic bottles and pieces of plastic embedded in the ice.  Wherever there is debris and plastic the ice melts there first.  I have seen melt area around a piece of plastic in a pond of about 1 meter in diameter before the rest of the ice melts.

I have a greenhouse that I cover with a piece of plastic and the temperature inside can get quite warm even on a cold sunny day.

So, it follows that all this plastic in the ice would increase the absorption of IR in the ice more efficiently than sea ice alone. The extra IR absorbed by the pieces of plastic should create pores of liquid water surrounding these small pieces of plastic much like what happens in a pond.

So, my initial questions to start a discussion:
1. How effective are these little pieces of plastic at collecting heat in the ice and transmitting said heat into the ice to melt it when the sun is shining?
2. With 12,000 pieces of plastic per liter of ice, might it be possible for pores surrounding some of these little pieces of plastic to join together and eventually act like a porous sponge creating drainage channels in the process? 
3. Would this allow melt ponds to effectively drain even as they are trying to form especially on relatively thin ice?
4. Might this be another feedback to consider when forecasting sea melt?
5. Will all these pieces of plastic in the water effectively collect extra IR in the water too, similar to plastic over a greenhouse?

VaughnAn

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Re: Sea Ice Melting Affected by Microplastics?
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2019, 07:07:18 AM »
There appears to be vast quantities of plastic material in the Arctic:


Vast Quantities of Microplastics in Arctic Sea Ice—A Prime Temporary Sink for Plastic Litter and a Medium of Transport

https://epic.awi.de/id/eprint/43254/

Abstract:
Although the Arctic covers 6% of our planet’s surface and plays a key role in the Earth’s climate it remains one of the least explored ecosystems. The global change induced decline of sea ice has led to increasing anthropogenic presence in the Arctic Ocean. Exploitation of its resources is already underway, and Arctic waters are likely important future shipping lanes as indicated by already increasing numbers of fishing vessels, cruise liners and hydrocarbon prospecting in the area over the past decade. Global estimates of plastic entering the oceans currently exceed results based on empirical evidence by up to three orders of magnitude highlighting that we have not yet identified some of the major sinks of plastic in our oceans. Fragmentation into microplastics could explain part of the discrepancy. Indeed, microplastics were identified from numerous marine ecosystems globally, including the Arctic.
 Here, we analysed horizons of ice cores from the western and eastern Fram Strait by focal plane array based micro-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy to assess if sea ice is a sink of microplastic. Ice cores were taken from land-locked and drifting sea ice to distinguish between local entrainment of microplastics vs long-distance transport. Mean concentrations of 2 x 106 particles m-3 in pack ice and 6 x 105 particles m-3 in land-locked ice were detected (numbers of fibers will soon be added). Eleven different polymer types were identified; polyethylene (PE) was the most abundant one. Preliminary results from four further ice cores from the central Arctic range in a similar order but the microplastics composition was very different. Calculation of drift trajectories by back-tracking of the ice floes sampled indicates multiple source areas, which explains the differences in the microplastic composition. Preliminary analysis of snow samples taken from ice floes in the Fram Strait showed numerous fibers of yet unknown but most likely anthropogenic origin indicating atmospheric fallout as a possible pathway.
 Our results exceed concentrations from the North Pacific by several orders of magnitudes. This can be explained partly by the process of ice formation, during which (organic) particles tend to concentrate by 1-2 orders of magnitude compared with ambient seawater. However, the magnitude of the difference indicates that Arctic sea ice is a temporal sink for microplastics. Increasing quantities of small plastic litter items on the seafloor nearby, which is located in the marginal ice zone corroborate the notion that melting sea ice releases entrained plastic particles and that sea ice acts as a vector of transport both horizontally and vertically to underlying ecosystem compartments.

VaughnAn

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Re: Sea Ice Melting Affected by Microplastics?
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2019, 07:16:08 AM »
This article from BBC discusses miroplastics in the Arctic:


Quote
"Using this approach, we also discovered plastic particles that were only 11 micrometres across," said co-researcher Gunnar Gerdts, also from the Alfred Wegener Institute.
"That's roughly one-sixth the diameter of a human hair, and also explains why we found concentrations of over 12,000 particles per litre of sea ice - which is two to three times higher than what we'd found in past measurements."

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-43879389


VaughnAn

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Re: Sea Ice Melting Affected by Microplastics?
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2019, 08:53:47 AM »
The volume and number of plastic particles in oceans and Arctic Ice has me concerned that we are missing an important source of IR absorption in seaice and seawater.  I have done some searching about absorption spectrums of some of these plastics.  Manufacturers seem more interested in transmission spectrums than absorption spectrums. 

There are colored plastic particles too especially black plastic that absorbs incoming light.  I am not sure about how much black and colored plastic is in the mix...

sidd

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Re: Sea Ice Melting Affected by Microplastics?
« Reply #4 on: June 06, 2019, 09:15:10 AM »
If you are a glutton for punishment, could try to use the Kramers-Kronig relation to get the absorption from the transmission spectrum. But something tells me there is not enuf detail in the manufacturers specs.

sidd

Tor Bejnar

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Re: Sea Ice Melting Affected by Microplastics?
« Reply #5 on: June 06, 2019, 04:17:36 PM »
I imagine one aspect of tiny plastic particles in (Arctic) ice is its prism qualities, a robbing Peter to pay Paul sort of thing, where energy is focused (basically, on a molecular level, as the plastic particles are tiny).  But this is physics beyond my ken.
Arctic ice is healthy for children and other living things.

VaughnAn

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Re: Sea Ice Melting Affected by Microplastics?
« Reply #6 on: June 06, 2019, 08:30:03 PM »
  But this is physics beyond my ken.
I have wondered about this to a degree.  However, looking at ponds with some plastic pollution even around very small pieces of plastic melt zones appear before the rest of the ice has melted. 

The lack of information about this topic puzzles me.  Right now I am only able to offer a guess or possibly an educated guess. I'll keep looking.

However:
1. Many particles of foreign material appear to develop melt zones around them in above freezing temperatures or in sunlight.  There are exceptions.  In a forested area a broken branch laying on snow provides shade and slows melt.
2.  Plastics in general absorb IR. Dark colored plastics absorb sunlight directly similar to soot on the ice. 
3. There are many particles of plastic in Arctic Ice.  12,000 particles per liter works out to 12 particles per cc or per ml.  In my estimation that is not a good thing.

VaughnAn

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Re: Sea Ice Melting Affected by Microplastics?
« Reply #7 on: June 06, 2019, 08:32:21 PM »
For your reading pleasure:

Plastic trash rides ocean currents to the Arctic
Scientists track tiny pieces of trash at the top of the world

https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/plastic-trash-rides-ocean-currents-arctic

nanning

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Re: Sea Ice Melting Affected by Microplastics?
« Reply #8 on: June 08, 2019, 08:38:45 AM »
@VaughAn
Quote
Many particles of foreign material appear to develop melt zones around them
Do you have pictures of this? Either in a test-setup or in situ? I'm curious about the differences to grains of sand or soot.
"It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly" - Bertrand Russel

"Only men of extraordinary independence of character seem able to resist the pressure of prevailing opinion" - Albert Einstein

VaughnAn

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Re: Sea Ice Melting Affected by Microplastics?
« Reply #9 on: June 09, 2019, 02:40:09 AM »
It appears that there has not been too much research into thermal effects of microplastics on seawater and sea ice.  There is more plastic in the ocean than I thought possible though.  It's scary.

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/06/140613-ocean-trash-garbage-patch-plastic-science-kerry-marine-debris/

VaughnAn

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Re: Sea Ice Melting Affected by Microplastics?
« Reply #10 on: June 09, 2019, 02:49:28 AM »
this article explains where the heavies concentrations of microplastics have been found in the Arctic:

https://www.theverge.com/2017/4/19/15358950/plastics-arctic-ocean-microplastics-polar-ice-caps-birds-animals

VaughnAn

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Re: Sea Ice Melting Affected by Microplastics?
« Reply #11 on: June 09, 2019, 02:55:38 AM »
@VaughAn
Quote
Many particles of foreign material appear to develop melt zones around them
Do you have pictures of this? Either in a test-setup or in situ? I'm curious about the differences to grains of sand or soot.

I'm not having much luck finding photos...yet.

Tor Bejnar

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Re: Sea Ice Melting Affected by Microplastics?
« Reply #12 on: June 09, 2019, 03:54:01 AM »
The Arctic Ocean Is Becoming A ‘Dead End’ For Your Trash
Huffington Post - 04/20/2017
Article includes pictures, but a caption includes "The Arctic Ocean is accumulating a high concentration of plastic, broken down over time into smaller bits called microplastics — such as those pictured here. " In other words, these pictures are not from the Arctic.

From plasticoceanpollution.weebly.com


Quote
Plastic Soup
Unlike every other ocean, the Arctic Ocean has no trash vortexes. Surveys of the area have found over 300 billion pieces of plastic and micro plastics (Meyer). The Arctic does not have a garbage patch, "it is [a] giant trash patch" (Meyer).

The Arctic has the same median density of plastic pollution as other oceans, but has spread evenly throughout the ocean. Also, most of the plastic in the Arctic is in the form of micro plastics, which means they have been breaking down in the ocean for years. It can be concluded that the pollution of the Arctic has been brought by currents from other oceans such as the Pacific and Indian (Meyer).

More pictures at the weebly site
« Last Edit: June 09, 2019, 04:00:56 AM by Tor Bejnar »
Arctic ice is healthy for children and other living things.

Tor Bejnar

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Re: Sea Ice Melting Affected by Microplastics?
« Reply #13 on: June 09, 2019, 05:20:12 AM »
The Arctic Ocean as a dead end for floating plastics in the North Atlantic branch of the Thermohaline Circulation
Andrés Cózar, et al. - Science Advances  19 Apr 2017
Quote
Abstract
The subtropical ocean gyres are recognized as great marine accummulation zones of floating plastic debris; however, the possibility of plastic accumulation at polar latitudes has been overlooked because of the lack of nearby pollution sources. In the present study, the Arctic Ocean was extensively sampled for floating plastic debris from the Tara Oceans circumpolar expedition. Although plastic debris was scarce or absent in most of the Arctic waters, it reached high concentrations (hundreds of thousands of pieces per square kilometer) in the northernmost and easternmost areas of the Greenland and Barents seas. The fragmentation and typology of the plastic suggested an abundant presence of aged debris that originated from distant sources. This hypothesis was corroborated by the relatively high ratios of marine surface plastic to local pollution sources. Surface circulation models and field data showed that the poleward branch of the Thermohaline Circulation transfers floating debris from the North Atlantic to the Greenland and Barents seas, which would be a dead end for this plastic conveyor belt. Given the limited surface transport of the plastic that accumulated here and the mechanisms acting for the downward transport, the seafloor beneath this Arctic sector is hypothesized as an important sink of plastic debris.
Images (below) from the on-line PDF of Supplementary Materials
Arctic ice is healthy for children and other living things.

Tom_Mazanec

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Re: Sea Ice Melting Affected by Microplastics?
« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2019, 05:46:58 PM »
Well, you are probably affected by microplastics...you're eating a spoonful a week:
https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-06-12/microplastic-study-reveals-global-ingestion-rates/11199498?pfmredir=sm
SHARKS (CROSSED OUT) MONGEESE (SIC) WITH FRICKIN LASER BEAMS ATTACHED TO THEIR HEADS