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Accelerated release of persistent organic pollutants from Alpine glaciers

English title Accelerated release of persistent organic pollutants from Alpine glaciers
Applicant Hungerbühler Konrad
Number 149835
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Institut für Chemie- und Bioingenieurwissenschaften ETH Zürich
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline Hydrology, Limnology, Glaciology
Start/End 01.10.2013 - 30.09.2014
Approved amount 113'060.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Hydrology, Limnology, Glaciology
Other disciplines of Environmental Sciences

Keywords (9)

lake sediments; multimedia model; secondary source; persistent organic pollutants; ice core; trace analytics; temperate glaciers; ice flow modeling; transport processes

Lay Summary (German)

Lead
Gletscher sind bedeutende Süsswasserspeicher. Vor Jahrzehnten haben sie durch atmosphärischen Eintrag auch bedeutende Mengen an langlebigen organischen Schadstoffen (persistent organic pollutants - POPs) im Eis aufgenommen und gespeichert. Zwar sind diese gefährlichen Chemikalien längst verboten, und die Einlagerung im Gletscher liegt lange zurück, über das Schmelzwasser werden sie jedoch auch heute noch freigesetzt.
Lay summary

Inhalt und Ziel des Forschungsprojekts

Dieses Projekt ist eine interdisziplinäre Zusammenarbeit von Chemikern, Glaziologen und Geologen der ETH Zürich, der Empa, des PSI und der Universität Bern. Darin wird das Verhalten von POPs vom Eintrag in den Gletscher über den Transport im und mit den Eis bis hin zur Freisetzung über das Schmelzwasser mittels Feldversuchen, Laboruntersuchungen und Computermodellen untersucht. Das Ziel besteht darin, das Verhalten von POPs zu verstehen und die Flüsse im Gletscher und Schmelzwasser zu quantifizieren.

In ersten Projektteil werden POPs in datierten Lagen von Eisbohrkernen aus Gletschern und Sedimentbohrkernen aus glazialen Gewässern bestimmt. Solche Messungen ermöglichen Aussagen über die Eintrags- und Freisetzungsgeschichte. Im zweiten Projektteil wird der in temperierten Gletschern erwartete Transport von POPs im Porenwasser des Eises untersucht. Im dritten Projektteil wird daraus ein Chemikalientransportmodell entwickelt.

Wissenschaftlicher und gesellschaftlicher Kontext des Forschungsprojekts

Die Untersuchungsergebnisse und Modelle sollen es ermöglichen, die in Alpengletschern gespeicherte Menge an POPs zu ermitteln und den Einfluss des durch Klimaveränderung beschleunigten Abschmelzens zu erfassen. Angesichts der problematischen Eigenschaften von POPs sind Untersuchungen über deren Freisetzung aus natürlichen Speichern und die anschliessende Rezirkulation in der Umwelt von besonderer Bedeutung.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 30.09.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Effect of melting on redistribution and release of PCBs from Alpine glaciers
Pavlova Pavlina, Schmid Peter, Bogdal Christian, Steinlin Christine, Schwikowski Margit (2014), Effect of melting on redistribution and release of PCBs from Alpine glaciers, in Organohalogen Compounds, 76, 691.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Glaciers. 1. Deposition History from an Alpine Ice Core
Pavlova Pavlina Aneva, Schmid Peter, Bogdal Christian, Steinlin Christine, Jenk Theo M., Schwikowski Margit (2014), Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Glaciers. 1. Deposition History from an Alpine Ice Core, in ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY, 48(14), 7842-7848.
Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Glaciers. 2. Model Results of Deposition and Incorporation Processes
Steinlin Christine, Bogdal Christian, Scheringer Martin, Pavlova Pavlina A., Schwikowski Margit, Schmid Peter, Hungerbuehler Konrad (2014), Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Glaciers. 2. Model Results of Deposition and Incorporation Processes, in ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY, 48(14), 7849-7857.
The fate of polychlorinated biphenyls in Alpine glaciers
Steinlin Christine, Bogdal Christian, Lüthi Martin, Scheringer Martin, Pavlova Pavlina, Schwikowski Margit, Schmid Peter, Hungerbühler Konrad (2014), The fate of polychlorinated biphenyls in Alpine glaciers, in Organohalogen Compounds, 76, 681.
Trace analysis of hydrophobic micropollutants in aqueous samples using capillary traps
Pavlova Pavlina Aneva, Schmid Peter, Zennegg Markus, Bogdal Christian, Schwikowski Margit (2014), Trace analysis of hydrophobic micropollutants in aqueous samples using capillary traps, in CHEMOSPHERE, 106, 51-56.
Modeling incorporation and post-depositional processes of PCB in Alpine glaciers
Steinlin Christine, Bogdal Christian, Scheringer Martin, Pavlova Pavlina, Schwikowski Margit, Schmid Peter, Hungerbühler Konrad (2013), Modeling incorporation and post-depositional processes of PCB in Alpine glaciers, in Organohalogen Compounds, 75, 800-803.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Department of Applied Environmental Chemistry, Stockholm University Sweden (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Lancaster Environment Center, Lancaster University Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Department of Chemistry, University of Otago New Zealand (Oceania)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Exchange of personnel

Awards

Title Year
Otto Hutzinger Student Presentation Award for the best oral presentation at the 33rd International Symposium on Halogenated Persistent Organic Pollutants – Dioxin 2013 in Daegu, South Korea, awared to Chistine Steinlin 2013

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
154108 Combining trace analytical chemistry with mathematical modeling: an innovative approach for quantification of chlorinated paraffins in complex environmental samples 01.01.2014 International short research visits
130083 Accelerated release of persistent organic pollutants from Alpine glaciers 01.09.2010 Project funding (Div. I-III)
110084 NCCR Climate: Climate variability, predictability and climate risks (phase II) 01.04.2005 National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs)
119781 The impact of proglacial lakes on the retreat of mountain glaciers: Rhonegletscher, Switzerland 01.01.2009 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

Global climate warming represents a major environmental, societal, and scientific challenge today, with numerous consequences. Accelerated melting of glaciers worldwide is a relevant issue for the freshwater resources on Earth. Recently, we have shown that in addition, melting glaciers release hazardous legacy pollutants, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). In this project we investigate the fate of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that were previously deposited to and incorporated into ice and are now released at historically high rates to the environment due to the rapid melting of glaciers. We particularly focus on temperate Alpine glaciers, which can incorporate appreciable amounts of percolating meltwater and, due to the warming climate, gain in importance in mid-latitude mountain areas. To study the complete chain of processes affecting POPs in temperate Alpine glaciers, including their deposition, incorporation, possible transformation, transport, and release, our project is composed of three closely linked work packages, investigating: (1) the temporal and spatial distribution and variability of meltwater in temperate glaciers, based on field experiments and glacier flow models, (2) the current and historical occurrence of POPs in Swiss glaciers, based on trace analysis of these chemicals in dated ice and sediment cores, as well as in glacial meltwater, (3) the overall fate of POPs in Alpine glaciers based on chemical fate modeling, including their initial emissions in the urbanized lowlands, their incorporation into firn and ice, and their release from glaciers.Since the beginning of the project in 2010, substantial progress has been achieved within these three work packages. The first period of work package 1 revealed that pore water flow with respect to the ice matrix is active at time scales that are probably longer than relevant for this project. On the other hand, near-surface percolation of water through the ice is on the time scale of hours to days, and thus faster than relevant for this study. These results show that the already existing ice flow model captures the most important aspect of the motion of pollutants with the ice. In work package 2, which started three years ago, the development of the trace analytical method for POPs in ice core samples required particularly important efforts, but resulted in a unique method enabling the reliable quantification of ultra-trace concentrations of target chemicals in small sample amounts. Finally, the first two years of work package 3 resulted in the development of a comprehensive model including emissions of POPs in urbanized areas, their transport to remote mountain areas, and their incorporation in glacier surfaces.Our investigations performed so far highlighted the complexity of the processes governing the fate of POPs in Alpine glaciers, particularly for temperate ice and for our target pollutants. However, several relevant research questions arised and need further attention. Work package 1 will concentrate on the near-surface processes on temperate accumulation and ablation areas, including investigations of the flow of meltwater in the melting zone of glaciers and the fate of chemicals in this area. In work package 2, the analysis of POP concentrations in temperate ice cores and additional sediment cores is planned. Finally, in work package 3, the coupling of POP emission and incorporation models with glacier flow models represents the main future task. The substantial progress we can report for the first project period confirms the excellent collaboration between the involved research groups and, particularly, the relevance of this project and its scientific challenges. Despite the serious budget cuts we initially faced, we were able to launch the project in its complete width, due to the substantial efforts we performed to raise further funds. We were convinced that our consortium formed of glaciologists, geologists, as well as analytical and environmental chemists is a unique chance for this multidisciplinary project. In this research proposal, we suggest to continue the project for an additional year, in order to keep the exceptional momentum gained so far in this project by the involved research consortium and particularly by the doctoral and postdoctoral students working in the three work packages.
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