Short-term variations in the occurrence of heavy metals in Antarctic snow from Coats Land since the 1920s

Short-term variations in heavy metals concentrations in Antarctic snow have been investigated by analysing 13 metals (Al, V, Cr, Mn, Co, Cu, Zn, Ag, Cd, Ba, Pb, Bi and U) in a series of ultraclean samples collected from two snow pits in Coats Land in the Atlantic sector of Antarctica. The samples covered a similar to70 years time period from the 1920s to 1990. They were analysed by inductively coupled plasma sector field mass spectrometry and graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry. The results conclusively show that there is a pronounced short-term (intra and inter-annual) variability of heavy metal in Antarctic snow, with the highest concentrations being up to 100 times higher than the lowest ones for metal such as Cr, Mn, Pb and U. Contributions from the different possible natural and anthropogenic sources are found to be extremely variable. This is especially due to the large variability in the transport patterns of heavy metals from Southern America, Southern Africa and Australia to the Antarctic continent. Inputs from several volcanic events were identified in our samples from non-seasalt sulfate concentrations profiles. The only ones that gave clear signals for heavy metals were eruptions at Deception Island the proximity of which allowed for tropospheric transport to Coats Land.


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Authors: Planchon, Frédéric A.M., Boutron, Claude F., Barbante, Carlo, Cozzi, Giulio, Gaspari, Vania, Wolff, Eric W., Ferrari, Christophe P., Cescon, Paolo

On this site: Eric Wolff
1 January, 2002
The Science of the Total Environment / 300
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