From: The Earth Institute at Columbia University
Published June 27, 2017 11:38 AM

As Climate Stirs Arctic Sea Ice Faster, Pollution Tags Along

A warming climate is not just melting the Arctic’s sea ice; it is stirring the remaining ice faster, increasing the odds that ice-rafted pollution will foul a neighboring country’s waters, says a new study.

Declining sea ice is opening more of the Arctic Ocean to industrial development and resource extraction, raising concerns that oil spills and other pollution could endanger the region. The new study, which maps the movement of sea ice in the region, underscores the risk of contaminated sea ice drifting from the economic zone of one country to another’s. Eight nations have exclusive economic zones off their Arctic coasts.

In the study, published this week in the journal Earth’s Future, researchers at Columbia and McGill universities find that faster moving sea ice is responsible for exporting 1 million square kilometers of ice — an area bigger than France and Germany combined — from one nation to another each year. That’s about a fifth of all sea ice formed.

“If you have a Deepwater Horizon-type spill where sea ice is forming, the oil can get into the ice and be transported to another country’s waters,” said study coauthor Stephanie Pfirman, a researcher at Barnard College and Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “We show that what happens in your EEZ doesn’t necessarily stay there.”

Read more at The Earth Institute at Columbia University

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