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Earth Science

The Arctic is Full of Toxic Mercury, and Climate Change is Going To Release it (washingtonpost.com) 195

We already knew that thawing Arctic permafrost would release powerful greenhouse gases. On Monday, scientists revealed it could also release massive amounts of mercury -- a potent neurotoxin and serious threat to human health. From a report: Permafrost, the Arctic's frozen soil, acts as a massive ice trap that keeps carbon stuck in the ground and out of the atmosphere -- where, if released as carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas would drive global warming. But as humans warm the climate, they risk thawing that permafrost and releasing that carbon, with microbial organisms becoming more active and breaking down the ancient plant life that had previously been preserved in the frozen earth. That would further worsen global warming, further thawing the Arctic -- and so on. That cycle would be scary enough, but U.S. government scientists on Monday revealed that the permafrost also contains large volumes of mercury, a toxic element humans have already been pumping into the air by burning coal. There are 32 million gallons worth of mercury, or the equivalent of 50 Olympic swimming pools, trapped in the permafrost, the scientists wrote in a study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. For context, that's "twice as much mercury as the rest of all soils, the atmosphere, and ocean combined," they wrote.
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The Arctic is Full of Toxic Mercury, and Climate Change is Going To Release it

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  • >> There are 32 million gallons worth of mercury, or the equivalent of 50 Olympic swimming pools, trapped

    Wait - how many Library of Congresses does that convert into? Or is there a car analogy you could use?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 06, 2018 @11:31AM (#56076669)
      I like thermometers. If you filled 67 billion thermometers with mercury and laid them end to end you would reach the sun.
      • False [imgflip.com].

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I like thermometers. If you filled 67 billion thermometers with mercury and laid them end to end you would reach the sun.

        No they wouldn't, they wouldn't have structural integrity to reach the sun. They would topple over with the slightest of winds. There is no way you would be able to lay thermometers on end to end from here to the sun; although I hear Elon Musk is attempting that next and is raising funds from investors.

    • >> There are 32 million gallons worth of mercury, or the equivalent of 50 Olympic swimming pools, trapped Wait - how many Library of Congresses does that convert into? Or is there a car analogy you could use?

      Car analogy? Since this is evil, I'm assuming we should use Musk-mobiles as the metric. How many seals are beaten to death every time a new Tesla rolls off the line?

  • For context, that's "twice as much mercury as the rest of all soils, the atmosphere, and ocean combined,"

    Why is there twice the mercury in the arctic? Or, should I just RTFA?

    • by sycodon ( 149926 )

      Easy, when it's cold, all the mercury goes to the bottom.

    • Elsewhere: Mercury compounds bio-accumulate in plants, plants die, decay, release mercury into environment. Lather rinse repeat.

      Arctic: Mercury compounds bio-accumulate in plants, plants die, do NOT decay because of cold. Overtime, mercury accumulates in the Arctic, is lessened elsewhere.

    • They're counting permafrost in the total they estimate the concentrations of mercury in. Permafrost soils can be very deep - easily up to a kilometre. And the Arctic is quite a large region. Put those two together and you've got a large soil volume estimate. That's off the top of my head - but I have drilled in the Arctic, and the depth of permafrost can be a significant issue in drilling and particularly well-control. For more, I'd need to RTFP too, but I suspect that soil volume estimate is going to be a
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I am a bit disappointed in this one, msmash.

    I mean, you knocked it out of the park with the AGW fear mongering, but it lacks pretty much completely in all other SJW categories. You could at least have found a link that blamed the patriarchy for all this.

    It's like you just aren't trying anymore.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I for one liked Freddie
  • Good news. (Score:4, Funny)

    by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gmai l . c om> on Tuesday February 06, 2018 @11:44AM (#56076757) Journal

    I found out what that thing you just incinerated did. It was a glacier they installed after I flooded the earth with a deadly neurotoxin to make me stop flooding the earth with a deadly neurotoxin, so get comfortable while I warm up the neurotoxin emitters.

    Ah, that glacier may have had some ancillary responsibilities. I can't shut off the flooding defenses. Oh well.

  • This just in: Trump pledges $1B to innovative Clean Mercury plants

  • OK, 50 olympic pools of mercury sounds pretty dangerous. If someone dropped 50 pools of mercury somewhere, this definitly would be dangerous. But then again: How did it get there? Why concentrated in the arctic? I'm pretty sure no one disposed the worlds obsolete mercury thermometers there, so... coal burning? How many coal was burned in the arctic? Probably not much compared to past and modern industrial centers.

    So I'm setting up this hypothesis: If coal burning is the main source of mercury, the arctic re

    • by nomadic ( 141991 )

      The mercury in permafrost largely predates modern coal burning. It tends to concentrate in the arctic due to atmospheric characteristics.

    • OK, 50 olympic pools of mercury sounds pretty dangerous. If someone dropped 50 pools of mercury somewhere, this definitly would be dangerous. But then again: How did it get there? Why concentrated in the arctic? I'm pretty sure no one disposed the worlds obsolete mercury thermometers there, so... coal burning? How many coal was burned in the arctic? Probably not much compared to past and modern industrial centers.

      So I'm setting up this hypothesis: If coal burning is the main source of mercury, the arctic received much less of mercury than any other part of the world. Only due to the climatic situation there, it was trapped in the ice. But then, even tose 50 pools can only be a fraction of mercury pollution compared to the rest of the world.

      If wood floats, witches float, ice floats, and witches are made out of wood, clearly witches put mercury in the arctic. Why are you blaming this all on thermometers and coal when witches are out terrorizing the world?

      Why does everyone need to have their own "theory" for how these sorts of systems work? If you care enough to post a theory, why not read the actual paper?

  • by foxalopex ( 522681 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2018 @12:07PM (#56076931)

    It's probably wise to start preparing for the changes that are coming. We're inherently lazy. It doesn't take a genius to notice that when it comes to protecting the environment or heath a lot of folks wait until it's almost too late before doing anything. It's one of the reasons why I find people who deny climate change for the most part disappointing. Most are playing the let's ignore it until it becomes a serious issue at which point it's either harder to fix or fatal. And in many ways it's already starting, many areas are seeing more flooding, fires and general weather damage that they have never seen before. The flood of migrants into Europe are primarily folks in Africa fleeing multi-year droughts for example. Now I'm not one to say that the world will end but at the very least it might be a good idea to be prepared for it. Insurance companies for example are taking this seriously because they're often on the paying end when things go south because they don't want to go bankrupt when the next disaster hits.

    • Way ahead of you. I live on an elevated position. I have a gun. Anyone trying to escape the rising sea levels gets shot.

  • From the study : "The turnover time associated with the microbial decay of frozen organic matter is ~14,000 years (Figure S28), making the Hg locked in permafrost effectively stable on human time scales. However, projections indicate a 30–99% reduction in near surface permafrost by 2100, and, once thawed, the turnover time for microbial decay drops to ~70 years (Koven et al., 2013; Schaefer et al., 2011). This makes the reservoir of Hg in permafrost soils vulnerable to release over the next century, w

  • Clean coal

    That's the ticket to solving this whole greenhouse, global warming thingy. We need to make coal great again.

  • by cyber-vandal ( 148830 ) on Tuesday February 06, 2018 @12:41PM (#56077161) Homepage

    Does it...

    Want to Break Free?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Is this before or after the projected 10-year pause in global warming [wattsupwiththat.com] due to decreased solar activity? Google search is pulling back articles from 2012 to say global warming wasn't linked to solar activity, except that it has for the last 5 years, and could happen again for at least another decade or more.

  • So wait - they are SOOO concerned about mercury in the artic being "released" but not concerned about the mercury in vaccines (or should I call an "adjuvent"). They tells us mercury is good for you that's why it's in the vaccines. So why should we give a raging rats ASS about mercury being released from the artic.... Make up your minds you stupid global warming conspiracy theorists.

    • Consuming iron-rich foods is good for you.
      That doesn't mean that swallowing a couple of pounds of nails is.

      Are you denialists intentionally stupid, or were you born that way?
      • Wow look who is stupid. I think your confusing the PLANET mercury with the ELEMENT mercury.... Kind of hard to confuse, but I guess IQ challenged people can have that problem....

        "Mercury poisoning can result from exposure to water-soluble forms of mercury (such as mercuric chloride or methylmercury), by inhalation of mercury vapor, or by ingesting any form of mercury."
        Ref:
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        "Mercury's core has a higher iron content than that of any other major planet in the Solar System"
        Ref:
        ht [wikipedia.org]

  • Holy shit the Talos Principle is real! We have to get to work creating AIs that are humanlike to take over when we all die!

  • My Grand Dad brought home a large Lipton instant Tea jar full of Mercury. He claimed it was used at work for cleaning.

    I've swallowed Mercury, not on purpose - was going to shoot it like a empty Bic Pen spit wad when it fell down my throat.

    Couldn't get rid of it, putting it down the drain was an experience. It would sit in the U-tube of the sink thwarting any attempt to remove and unclog (no one knew Mercury was poured down it). One day the U-tube shattered spilling Mercury all over, the Mercury had crystall

  • It's trapped in the soil, right? As in not going anywhere, because there's no way the soil will get hot enough for the mercury to evaporate?

    Unless we're looking to farm the Arctic, I don't see a problem.

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