More debunking of the Yarrow Axford midge study: glaciers releasing pollutants into lakes years later.

From the American Chemical Society via Eurekalert yet another reason why we asked “did you check the lake for DDT?”. Also, a review of Miller et al 2005 suggests that Baffin Island glaciers are significant with 37,000 square kilometers of area out of 507,451 square kilometers.

In the press release on the Yarrow Axford study at UC, they say: “The ancient lake sediment cores are the oldest ever recovered from glaciated parts of Canada or Greenland.”

Thus it is certainly not unreasonable to conclude that the lake is a collection point for glacial meltwater. So again I ask the question: did you check the lake for DDT?

Glacial melting may release pollutants in the environment

IMAGE: Pollutants from melting glaciers may help explain an increase in persistent organic pollutants in certain lakes since the 1990s, despite decreased used of pesticides.

Click here for more information.

Those pristine-looking Alpine glaciers now melting as global warming sets in may explain the mysterious increase in persistent organic pollutants in sediment from certain lakes since the 1990s, despite decreased use of those compounds in pesticides, electric equipment, paints and other products. That’s the conclusion of a new study, scheduled for the Nov. 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

In the study, Christian Bogdal and colleagues focused on organic pollutants in sediment from a model body of water –– glacier-fed Lake Oberaar in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland –– testing for the persistent organic pollutants, including dioxins, PCBs, organochlorine pesticides and synthetic musk fragrances. They found that while contamination decreased to low levels in the 1980s and 1990s due to tougher regulations and improvements in products, since the late 1990s flow of all of these pollutants into the lake has increased sharply. Currently, the flow of organochlorines into the lake is similar to or even higher than in the 1960s and 1970s, the report states.

The study attributed the most recent spike in the flow of pollutants into Lake Oberaar to the accelerated release of organic chemicals from melting Alpine glaciers, where contaminants were deposited earlier and preserved over decades. “Considering ongoing global warming and accelerated massive glacial melting predicted for the future, our study indicates the potential for environmental impacts due to pollutants delivered into pristine mountainous areas,” Bogdal said.

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ARTICLE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE “Blast from the Past: Melting Glaciers as a Relevant Source for Persistent Organic Pollutants”

DOWNLOAD FULL TEXT ARTICLE http://pubs.acs.org/stoken/presspac/presspac/full/10.1021/es901628x

h/t to Alan Siddons

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24 Responses to More debunking of the Yarrow Axford midge study: glaciers releasing pollutants into lakes years later.

  1. Back2Bat says:

    I learned that some bacteria break down PCB’s. I would bet that some could be trained to breakdown DDT also. God’s little helpers.

  2. George Tobin says:

    First we were told the midges died of global warming… now it may be PCBs.

    Has anyone checked for alar, cyclomates, depleted ozone, acid rain or insect obesity as contributing causes?

    It is vitally important that we know which trendy disaster scenario is actually in play so we know which activist group to fund.

  3. hotrod says:

    Interesting thought that glaciers can act as delay lines and create a time off set for atmospheric borne contaminants into the down stream water shed.

    I would assume the same sort of thing would apply to sulfur compounds from volcanic eruptions and other “markers” that are frequently used to date sediments.

    Another consideration that might need to be looked at, is how contaminants migrate through the body of the glacier itself, or how preferentially they appear in melt water during partial thaw events. For example we know in the case of sea ice that over time the salt content gradually migrates out of the ice due to Fractional freezing distillation. It would be reasonable to think that this sort of segregation over multiple years of freeze thaw cycles, might cause some compounds to migrate through the ice faster than others (sort of like gas chromatography).

    The thing that bothers me with many research efforts is that they do not clearly recognize (or at least do not explicitly state) that there may be other mechanisms working that they do not account for.

    Larry

  4. maz2 says:

    AGW/Mann not mentioned?
    …-

    “Scientists Study old Hockey Stick

    Kate Yule
    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    Scientists in New Brunswick are hoping that tree-rings on a very old hockey stick will help them determine its exact age.

    The hockey stick, originally from Cape Breton, is thought to date back to the mid-1800s. It’s made of sugar maple from Pottle’s Lake.

    Colin Laroque, head of the dendrochronology lab at Mount Allison University, said tree-ring aging is being used to compare the hockey stick to living trees near North Sydney, N.S.”

    http://www.cfra.com/?cat=4&nid=68791

  5. Ecotretas says:

    Does this study have anything to do with what appeared in “Quaternary Research”: “Evidence for a warmer period during the 12th and 13th centuries AD from chironomid assemblages in Southampton Island, Nunavut, Canada”

    http://www.cen.ulaval.ca/paleo/Publications/Articles/Rolland.2009b.pdf

    Ecotretas

  6. Wondering Aloud says:

    So apparently someone has been spraying these glaciers with organochlorine pesticides, dioxin, PCB etc so it can run off when the glacier melts.?

    The DDT is an apt analogy. Just like when they found huge concentrations of DDT in the tissue of 20,000 year old mammoths. Wouldn’t a rational person assume they had just uncovered evidence that the method was flawed?

  7. Brian Klappstein says:

    Relevant to the Yarrow et al paper is the data from the nearby Clyde River weather station (about 50 km away from Lake Ayr). Daily data has been more or less continuous from this station since early 1946. These data show a slight cooling trend to 2008 inclusive. The warmest year ever was 1947, the next warmest 1969 and the third warmest 1998 by the annual average of the daily TMAX parameter.

    The point being is that although the area cooled a bit and then warmed again, the warming of the last few decades has still not exceeded the instrumental record for the locale. So tying midge declines and diatom explosions to late 20th century anthropogenic warming isn’t logical. There is no strong late 20th century warming in this area according to the instrumental record.

    It’s possible the lake had a delayed response to warming in the area from the 30’s and 40’s, but then to attribute this response to anthropogenic causes doesn’t seem plausible since it’s not agreed the 30’s warming is mostly anthropogenic.

    Regards, BRK

  8. Vincent says:

    “Scientists Study old Hockey Stick.”

    In their desperation to get a hockey stick from growth rings, what better sample could there be than to measure the growth rings in a hockey stick itself. It’s a novel variation of “you are what you eat.”

  9. Bill Illis says:

    DDT is a very persistent chemical. It doesn’t breakdown in nature very easily. The Wiki on DDT says its half-life in the soil ranges between 22 days and 30 years. In some cases, after 30 years, half of it is still there.

    They still find trace DDT on vegetables grown in the US. I think this persistence factor is one of the main reasons that the bans were initiated and one of the reasons I think we should use other insecticides instead of DDT.

  10. Dena says:

    DDT is not a problem if it is used correctly. It should only be sprayed on building where the weather will not wash it off. It’s not a first choice for crops or any place where it’s not confined. It is still the best thing to control malaria with but because of the damage it caused in the past, people suffer from malaria because of a false fear of DDT.

  11. MJPenny says:

    So contamninant levels in the sediment started increasing after 1950 when there was contaminated annual snowmelt and rainfall, and uncontaminated glacial melt entering the lake. Due to tougher regulations, the contaminants in the snowmelt and rainfall decreased while the glacial melt contaminants stayed low (not yet melting). Now we have relatively uncantaminated annual snowmelt and rainfall and contaminated glacial melt from ice laid down between 1950 and when tougher regulation were instituted.

    This would happen wether there is local/global warming or not. Glaciers melt as they slowly slide to lower/warmer elevations releasing any impurities that were laid down with the snow. There is nothing in this study that has anything to do with global warming, wether it is man made or not.

  12. BrianMcL says:

    After the bad news that global warming makes scary monsters appear in the sky, frightens children, drowns dogs and makes rabbits cry (claims thankfully now being investigated by the UK Advertising Standards Agency) the good news is that it also kills midges.

    Somehow this stunning revelation didn’t seem to make the Climate Change advert’s final cut. I suppose they felt that in the UK at least global warming is already popular enough.

  13. Paul Coppin says:

    hotrod (09:43:53) :

    The thing that bothers me with many research efforts is that they do not clearly recognize (or at least do not explicitly state) that there may be other mechanisms working that they do not account for.

    ……………………………………….

    This is a huge problem for non-biologists trying to use biological proxies for elucidation of physical data. Something that, I dare say, most, simply don’t recognize: that they lack the training to properly acknowledge or identify, not only the known variables in an environment, but also lack a scientific appreciation of the unknown variables that may be in play as well. Botany 101 and zoology 101 aren’t enough, but should have given them a clue.

    Frequently, there is a simplistic approach to dealing with the sampling in a weak assumption that the sampling will be sufficiently homogenous as to eliminate, or at least reduce, bias. Frequently this is naivete at its best; in the worst case, its an outright sampling bias to force the data to shout out something that really isn’t true. Sociology suffers from this weakness as well.
    In the climate change arena, the tree proxies are the flag-bearers of inappropriate sampling. Complex biological systems are lousy proxies for physical data for a long list of reasons, as commenters continue to illustrate, time and time again.

  14. Chris V. says:

    You can find the little town of Clyde River on Baffin Island using google earth.

    There are a bunch of small lakes within a few miles of the town. Looking at the drainage lines, it’s pretty clear that none are glacier-fed. (The nearest glacier is about 80 miles away, BTW).

  15. AnonyMoose says:

    I wonder if this midge study was peer-reviewed by climate peers instead of midge peers.

  16. Brian Klappstein says:

    “…There are a bunch of small lakes within a few miles of the town…”

    (Chris V.)

    I think Ayr Lake is about 53 km due west of the Clyde River airport. It’s the small teardrop shaped lake (I think) and you can see that the remnants of a small glacier feed into the east end of the lake. This being the internet someone will correct me if I’m wrong shortly.

    BRK

  17. Dave Wendt says:

    Although glacial melt water will undoubtedly contain pollution that has been deposited over the years this paper’s hypothesis that the spike in pollutants they noted in the sediment core they analyzed is attributable to glacial melt water seems to be a largely unsupported crock. From the map they provide, the area of the lake and that of the remaining glacier appear to be roughly equivalent, but the lake appears to capture runoff from a much larger catchment area, so that amounts of the analyzed compounds in the lake sediments would likely be higher than in glacial ice from the same periods. The graphs of the pollutant profiles from the sediment core all bottom out at nearly the same point in time and then increase dramatically, with more than half rising to levels well beyond what was seen when the compounds were being actively spread in the environment and only 1 of 9 being much below those levels.

    For glacial melt to generate those kind of increases would require multiple annual layers from across the entire area of the glacier to melt at one time. Since the normal way that glaciers lose ice is melting in an ablation zone at its lower face which is usually a rough vertical section of the glacier’s entire depth, and the contours of the retreating glacier face they show indicate that in the time period of the increase of pollutants in the sediments, glacial retreat was actually slowing dramatically, to suggest that glacial melt is responsible seems to me to be entirely brain dead.

  18. Brian Klappstein says:

    “…with more than half rising to levels well beyond what was seen when the compounds were being actively spread…”

    (Dave Wendt)

    Aren’t you defeating your own argument? Where are all these compounds, like DDT, coming from in the late ’90’s if not from meltwater? Keep in mind the third warmest year in the instrumental record nearby is 1998.

  19. jorgekafkazar says:

    The Bogdal abstract doesn’t give any concentration figures. I suspect, based on previous ecological alarms, that the concentrations are insignificant relative to the toxic dose for midge larvae or to the amounts of DDT (or synthetic musk fragrances) sprayed over the lake in the 50’s to kill ‘skeeters. Glacier run-off might be less significant than, say, fall-out from volcanic eruptions.

  20. Wondering Aloud says:

    My point Bill, is that in the past a huge DDT panic was created and they found DDT everywhere including “20 times the maximum expected level” in elephant samples, verified by several independant labs, that turned out to be from mammoth dug up in Siberia. The test for so called break down daughters that was used universally to test for DDT in samples of plants and animals, like your supposed vegetables, turned out to be pure garbage and at least 90% of what was supposed to be from DDT was from natural sources and not pesticide residue at all. (Interesting that the test was for break down products, since the frauds on that issue claim it doesn’t break down)

    The claim that DDT is some hugely persistent chemical that doesn’t break down in nature is baloney. It is more persistent than I’d like, but still less harmful than any of the replacements for it. Even the UN and WHO have finally admitted as much, when they removed restrictions in UN programs 4 years ago.

  21. Dave Wendt says:

    Brian Klappstein (18:50:50) :
    “…with more than half rising to levels well beyond what was seen when the compounds were being actively spread…”

    (Dave Wendt)

    Aren’t you defeating your own argument? Where are all these compounds, like DDT, coming from in the late ’90’s if not from meltwater? Keep in mind the third warmest year in the instrumental record nearby is 1998.

    I don’t really know much about the lake other than what is included in the paper, but it is described as a hydroelectric reservoir, which suggests on possible source for some of the pollutants. One thought that comes to mind, since the contours of glacial retreat indicate indicate that from 1975 to 2005 it was only about a third of what occurred from 1960 to 1975, is that the compounds were in solution in the lake all the time and drastically reduced inputs of melt water caused more of it to precipitate out into the lake sediments. If it was a Hollywood movie or tv show, I would suggest that some nefarious industrialist had sent his evil minions to dump barrels of waste in the lake so he wouldn’t have to pay to have it disposed of properly. Give me a couple of hours and I can probably come up with a few more alternatives, which, at least judging by what they wrote in their paper, would be a couple hours more than the authors spent similarly occupied.

  22. Bill Illis says:

    Wondering Aloud,

    I guess I was just backing-up Anthony’s points about checking for DDT in the Yarrow Axford study and that DDT and other pollutants can come out of glaciers many years later (and someone mentioned bacteria breaking down other chemicals above).

    DDT is/was a great chemical insecticide. It could prevent a lot of deaths from Malaria and other problems in Africa. And many of the problems associated with DDT were way over-blown.

    But sometimes, we humans, can produce things that do have long-lasting negative effects that we didn’t anticipate. When the science is sound enough, we act quickly to stop that activity. Radioactive substances, asbestos, sulfur dioxide emissions, chemical weapons (most of which are based on insecticides), biological weapons are just a few of the things that we found out were extremely harmful. We have to be careful with genetic engineering, carbon nano-tubes etc in the future to make sure these inventions are not harmful as well. This is not much different than the hurdles that new druges and new medical procedures must pass before being accepted. For the most part, that just means a careful scientic study (and then further replication) proving there is no problem and we are ready to go.

    But one of the things we need to be even more careful with, are persistent chemicals that do not break-down in nature. If there are alternatives to these substances, we should just use the alternatives instead. There are lots of mosquito insecticides, why aren’t we just using those instead.

  23. Keith Minto says:

    ” Bill Illis (10:29:59) :

    DDT is a very persistent chemical. It doesn’t breakdown in nature very easily. The Wiki on DDT says its half-life in the soil ranges between 22 days and 30 years. In some cases, after 30 years, half of it is still there.”

    Bill, that half life is the problem, it is just long enough to be around within one person’s lifetime.
    I remember photographing in a camping ground near Venice in the 70’s and being sprayed liberally with a fine white mist mist, later found to be DDT. I am still around but you may detect the pesticide in my tissue samples!
    I believe that when DDT is either pasted on or incorporated into walls on rural huts it is most effective as it kills the mossies when they alight.
    A little thought earlier on about its persistence would have saved many lives instead of an outright ban.

  24. bill says:

    Wondering Aloud (19:47:00) :
    My point Bill, is that in the past a huge DDT panic was created and they found DDT everywhere including “20 times the maximum expected level” in elephant samples, verified by several independant labs, that turned out to be from mammoth dug up in Siberia.

    I would be interested in first hand account of this if you have one please.

    DDT is not universally banned!!!!!!

    http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE54542W20090506

    OSLO (Reuters) – The United Nations announced a plan Wednesday to rid the world by around 2020 of DDT, an outlawed toxic crop pesticide still used to spray homes to fight malaria-spreading mosquitoes.

    “The aim … is to achieve a 30 percent cut in the application of DDT worldwide by 2014 and its total phase-out by the early 2020s if not sooner,” the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement.
    … But exemptions have been allowed in many developing nations because it so effective in killing mosquitoes. DDT’s Swiss inventor Paul Hermann Muller won the 1948 Nobel Prize for Medicine — before its wider toxic effects were known.
    Developing countries have had an agonizing choice between using a known poison to spray their homes or risk greater exposure to malaria.
    The five-year projects in Mexico and Central America found that non-DDT measures such as wider use of mosquito screens in homes or draining stagnant pools where mosquito larvae grow helped cut the number of malaria cases by 63 percent.

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