Decades-old pollutants melting out of Himalayan glaciers

Hmmmm….bolding mine~ctm

From AGU

31 July 2019

Posted by larryohanlon

By Mary Caperton Morton

Melting Himalayan glaciers are releasing decades of accumulated pollutants into downstream ecosystems, according to a new study.

The new research in AGU’s Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres finds chemicals used in pesticides that have been accumulating in glaciers and ice sheets around the world since the 1940s are being released as Himalayan glaciers melt as a result of climate change.

These pollutants are winding up in Himalayan lakes, potentially impacting aquatic life and bioaccumulating in fish at levels that may be toxic for human consumption.

The new study shows that even the most remote areas of the planet can be repositories for pollutants and sheds light on how pollutants travel around the globe, according to the study’s authors.

The Himalayan glaciers contain even higher levels of atmospheric pollutants than glaciers in other parts of the world “because of their proximity to south Asian countries that are some of the most polluted regions of the world,” said Xiaoping Wang, a geochemist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and an author on the new study.

The high mountain glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau feed thousands of alpine lakes that form the headwaters of many of Asia’s major rivers. Credit: NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center.

The high mountain glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau feed thousands of alpine lakes that form the headwaters of many of Asia’s major rivers. Credit: NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center.

For pollutants, there is no away

Pollutants can travel long distances through the atmosphere on dust particles and water molecules. Previous studies have shown that Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets contain high levels of pollutants that traveled thousands of kilometers before dropping onto ice and being incorporated into glaciers. This phenomenon of high levels of contamination far from sources of pollution, known as the Arctic paradox, is also seen in high mountain glaciers like those in the Himalaya.

Full article here

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33 thoughts on “Decades-old pollutants melting out of Himalayan glaciers

  1. According to this line of illogic, glaciers apparently aren’t supposed to ever melt at all.
    20,000 BC thinking at work.

    • This kind of modern intellect creates a completely organic form of stupid devoid of such patriarchal dichotomies as logic or reason and completely resistant to scrutiny.
      If Darwin is god, we’re dead as a species in two or the generations. Somedays i wake up believing Mike Judge to be a prophet for making Idiocracy 13 years ago.

    • Hooey!
      This is merely a testament to our ability to detect and measure things, not any sort of measure regarding relevance to other water samples or safe levels.
      I suspect that any sort of reactive chemicals will have long since reacted and what is being detected is the broken-down byproduct which no longer has any toxicity.
      Another scare tactic aimed at the poorly educated and ignorant.

  2. Another study demonstrating the benefits of neonicatoid-coated seeds.

    Oh and here’s a challenge, try to find a single picture of a fish in Lake Namtso. Even a bigger challenge, try to find a picture of a Tibetan eating one.

  3. I was a leader of a Hazmat team for several years. We had a saying, “The solution for pollution is dilution.” It doesn’t apply to absolutely everything but it does apply fairly well to somewhere around 99.9999% of hazardous compounds. Once you get below a certain threshold almost everything is basically harmless. I would guess that this is a pretty good example of this principle. Just because we have the ability to detect substances to down to a few parts per billion… that doesn’t mean that they are harmful or a pollutant at that concentration

    • “Once you get below a certain threshold almost everything is basically harmless. ”

      Try telling that to the EPA. They use a straight line from zero to a measured effect at some concentration, so literally ANY non-zero pollution level has an effect on a large enough population. It’s a joke to call this science.

      • Unless that pollution was caused by, say, an EPA mine water accident. Suddenly they stop talking about LNT.

      • Robert of Texas
        You are correct, the media seem to love it when some ‘scientist’ reports almost any organic compound in a environmental sample. More and more, the technology exists to detect stuff in the parts per billion or less. And if it is detected it is reported. Nothing is ever said that in these amounts there is NO indication of any toxic or hazardous effects but ‘never mind’ they assume it is dangerous at some level. Very very misleading!

    • Yes, that is the curse of advances in analytical chemistry techniques.
      It doesn’t matter how low the concentration is: Once you can detect it, then an environmental activist will say that it is a problem.

      It’s not clear to me what exactly is being claimed in the original article. It seems neither new nor surprising, nor a problem that such compounds are entrained in glaciers.. But we definitely know what conclusions will be drawn by the usual suspects.

  4. The author of the original piece is Mary Caperton Morton — who is not a climate alarmist nor a radical green. She is just, apparently, a fun loving geologist with a knack for writing.

    The study being reported on my MCM is titled “Release of Perfluoroalkyl Substances From Melting Glacier of the Tibetan Plateau: Insights Into the Impact of Global Warming on the Cycling of Emerging Pollutants” by Mengke Chen and 8 others. Their abstract conclusion that “the melting process will increase the risks of emerging pollutants to freshwater sources and should be of great concern” is probably a matter of translation.

    US EPA doesn’t even list PFAAs as hazardous (yet).

  5. The full article says “They detected levels as high as 2,171 picograms per liter in the lake” of perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs).

    Someone please check my math:

    2,171 picograms/L = aprox. 2.17 picograms/gram water = aprox. 2.17 parts per trillion (ppt)

    The USEPA issued an advisory that municipalities should notify their customers of the presence of Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) levels over 70 ppt in drinking water.

    So the lake samples contains 2.17 ppt max and EPA advises municipalities to notify their customers if the levels exceed 70 ppt.

    Again – someone please check me here.

    • Your math looks good …as long as you state the assumption that 1 L water = 1Kg mass, which is not always the case, T dependent. with that approximation it would be better then to just round it to 2 ppt. The 0.17 picograms part would be far inside measurement error.

      • So the bottom line is we can drink higher concentrations of FPAAs in our tap water than in the Himalayan lake and that’s okay with the EPA. Made for great headlines though.

    • EPA explanation of units
      https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-09/documents/epa816f15001.pdf

      EPA terms can be sloppy. People often sacrifice precision for simplicity.
      The Liter is a unit of volume, grams are units of mass. Assuming 1000 grams of water per liter is ok most of the time, but there are times when it would be wrong.
      The use of the term “trillion” is also potentially confusing.
      The EPA should just say the “aqueous concentration” is 2.17 picograms per gram.
      If you have a reason for concern, you might be able to obtain a lab report of that measured value.
      An original lab report should also contain a range of uncertainty, such as 2.1 to 2.3 picograms per gram.

      • Prior to retirement as an environmental engineer/consultant, it was a big deal to properly round analytical results in reports, thereby not implying higher precision than is actually present. Field and lab Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QAQC) analysis (duplicates, replicates, blanks, etc.) provides insight as to the usefulness of the data for the intended purpose. The reported FPAA concentration of 2,171 picograms per liter may only have one or two significant figures. It seems like the Climate Science field is far less concerned about significant figures (& accuracy & precision) and as such, is doing a favor to no one.

    • Seems right
      ppt equal to 1 ng in 1 litre of water. Hence, 2171pg/l = 2.17 ng /l or 2 x 10*-9 g/l

      In terms of molarity, if the substance was perflourooctanoic acid, the MW = 414.07 g/M.

      2171 pg = 2171/414 = 5.244 x10*- 12 moles in one litre

      I don’t think you could taste 0.91 pM of anything in your drink.

  6. Better let the Himalayan health and natural water industry know. Yes the same (California) folks that brought you unpasteurized fruit juices with kidney failure, mercury in fish 24/7 diets, and orpiment for colorful homemade candles.

  7. No-one is taking the hint from ctm about the words he chose to bold. If climate change is only now releasing chemicals deposited in the glaciers in the 1940s it would seem that post-1970s warming is only now getting us back to where we were in the 1940s. In other words, the warming from the late 1970s to now has only reversed the cooling from the 1940s to the 1970s, and done no more. That would seem to add to doubt about surface temperature data sets that say current temperatures are far above the level of the 1940s.

    • “warming is only now getting us back to where we were in the 1940s” Does it work that way? It seems to me that each year’s snow would trap a layer of pollutants, the “warming” is melting back into those layers releasing whatever they are measuring.

  8. Eventually (ignoring a sudden Ice Age event), all airborne pollution that settles onto glaciers is going to end up in streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans. It will collect wherever the water turbulence drag it to. and then become buried (assuming it remains a solid). I can see where some glacier fed lakes are going to have a problem, especially if they are near India and China.

    As pollution is addressed and then controlled the levels of pollutants should drop – but there will be a lag when concerning glacier melts. So this problem is going to be with us for another 50 to 100 years. Unless it starts cooling, which should delay the pollution release for a while.

  9. Glaciers are guaranteed to melt regardless.
    If glacires are growing, they are adding mass faster than they lose it. But they still lost it from melt at the margins and surface during summer months.
    If glaciers are static, they are adding mass at the same pase as they lose it. But they still lose it from melt at the margins and surface during summer months.
    If Glaciers are shrinking, ther are adding mass slower than they lose it. But they still lose it from melt at the margins and surface during summer months.
    The only time a glacier might not lose mass at the margins or surface from summertime melt is in the depths of an Ice Age.
    Even when growing, glaciers still melt in summer and any toxins/pollution in the ice near the surface will be released regardless.

  10. I’ll bet you can detect and positively identify radionucleotides from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki fallout only now melting out of these glaciers.

    Someone missed a huge propaganda opportunity there. Anti-nuclear and global warming.

    I can just see the headlines.

    “Toxic radioactive fallout and toxic Dihydrogen Monoxide runoff from Himalayan glaciers caused by Climate Change threaten Tibet – Dali Lama calls for UN Summit”

    sarc/off

    Just because you can measure something doesn’t necessarily mean anything. It’s just very easy to scare the scientifically ignorant.

  11. “Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets contain high levels of pollutants that traveled thousands of kilometers before dropping onto ice and being incorporated into glaciers. This phenomenon of high levels of contamination far from sources of pollution, known as the Arctic paradox, is also seen in high mountain glaciers like those in the Himalaya.”
    ________________________________________________________

    That’s neither a new phenomenon nor an Arctic paradox:

    Don’t drink that unfiltered yellow snow glacier water!

    https://q21glacierwater.com

    Q21 Glacier Water

    It sits high above the land and from this prehistoric source, ribbons of glacier water flow towards the sea,

    – naturally filtered over time through volcanic lava rock. From this flawless water source, combined with the most natural filtration process, emerges the cleanest purest water available to mankind.

    next question:

    Can you drink water from a glacier?

    Answer : don’t do it!

    https://www.google.com/search?q=glacier+water+filtered+by+rocks&oq=glacier+water+filtered+by+rocks&aqs=chrome.

  12. in order for them to get trapped in glacier in the 1940’s wouldn’t the glacier itself need to be at same approx size/level it is now when pollutants getting released?
    IOW doesn’t this show the warming from 1930’s was reversed with NO policy change by any country, glaciers grew, trapped pollutants?
    pollutants can’t magically change their geological position in the glacier to meet desired political policies.

  13. Another source of pollution in the Himalayas is the excrement and urine of thousands of yahoos who queue up to get their pictures taken at the top of a mountain. Also their rotting unburied bodies aren’t good for Our Mother.

  14. I remember reading they were “finding” proof of ancient romans foundry emissions in the alps in the glaciers, showing how “nasty” mankind was polluting back then..was figuring it was damned amazing they could make the claims on what must have been pretty small emissions from very few mine/smelting workshops back then

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