As the Arctic melts tons of mercury are released into the atmosphere

As the Arctic melts tons of mercury are released into the atmosphere

As Arctic ice melts, large amounts of mercury are released into the atmosphere.

Thawing Arctic permafrost

The Arctic soil is the most important carbon reservoir on the planet. However, when we talk about the melting of the pack ice, we most often fail to mention the thawing permafrost. If this soil thawed completely and released its reserves of greenhouse gases, the average temperatures could then increase by 12 ° C.

These estimates far exceed the increase of 4.8 ° C expected for the 2100 horizon by the Giec. This estimate was the worst case scenario for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In addition, permafrost also contains significant amounts of mercury, a toxic metal that could contaminate marine wildlife and, ultimately, humans. At the moment, it is difficult to assess the risk of contamination of food.

Large quantities of mercury are about to be released 

A study was published Monday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. It reveals that the natural mercury content of Arctic permafrost is now ten times higher than that produced by humans over the last thirty years. Currently, global warming is rapidly melting the permafrost. Thus, high levels of mercury are released into the atmosphere.

Before this study was conducted, the experts thought that the Arctic soil contained very little mercury. They were wrong, and very far since it is the world's largest storage of this metal. For now, they are still unaware whether if this form of mercury will be toxic to humans and how much will be released into the atmosphere. Mercury, in some forms, is a potent neurotoxin.

Could it contaminate our food?

To begin with, the rise in temperature will depend on the speed at which people will be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This will determine the rate of melting permafrost, which will affect the amount of mercury released. But that's only part of the equation. "

How much mercury will end up in the food web? That's the big question. When you start to focus on food chains, everything goes off. Amounts of mercury released into the atmosphere will impose increased risks to the Arctic population and wildlife, but what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic.Very fast, this great quantity of mercury will spread everywhere on Earth, and there will almost certainly be an impact on people. We know that the permafrost will melt and we know that some of the mercury will be released.At this point, we do not have precise estimates of time and quantity; it's the next step in our research. 

says Kevin Schaefer

source: NationalGeographic


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