Oceanography

Arctic sea ice traps floating plastic

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Science  30 May 2014:
Vol. 344, Issue 6187, pp. 985
DOI: 10.1126/science.344.6187.985-h

Scientists are all too familiar with microplastics—tiny polymer beads, fibers, or fragments—in ocean eddies or near coastlines. But currents, it turns out, also carry them to the Arctic. Obbard et al. melted and filtered parts of four Arctic sea-ice cores, analyzing the remaining particles' chemistry. They found rayon, as well as polyester, nylon, and other synthetic polymers. As Arctic ice freezes, the researchers argue, it traps floating microplastics, accumulating hundreds of particles per cubic meter: three orders of magnitude larger than some counts of particles in the Pacific Garbage Patch. And melting sea ice, they note, could release more than 1 trillion pieces of plastic to the ocean in the next decade.

Earth's Future 10.1002/2014EF000240 (2014).

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