Environment

The Arctic Ocean May Soon Have Its Very Own ‘Garbage Patch’

In findings published this week, a 2013 Arctic Ocean expedition found plastic “was abundant and widespread” in the waters east of Greenland in the Barents Sea, off the coasts of northern Russia and Scandinavia.

A multinational expedition that skimmed the Arctic Ocean in 2013 found plastic “was abundant and widespread” in waters east of Greenland in the Barents Sea, off northern Russia and Scandinavia. In some parts of those waters, they found hundreds of thousands of pieces of plastic per square kilometer of surface, the researchers reported this week.

“The growing level of human activity in an increasingly warm and ice-free Arctic, with wider open areas available for the spread of microplastics, suggests that high loads of marine plastic pollution may become prevalent in the Arctic in the future,” the researchers warned.

Nearly all the plastic was concentrated in the stretch between Greenland and the Russian islands of Novaya Zemla. Those waters “constitute a dead end” for the currents that flow northward from the Atlantic, bringing with them trash from the coasts of Europe and North America, the study found.

“The total load of floating plastic for the ice-free waters of the Arctic Ocean was estimated to range from around 100 to 1,200 tons, with 400 tons composed of an estimated 300 billion plastic items as a midrange estimate,” the scientists wrote.

Environment

The Arctic Ocean is increasingly becoming the world’s garbage dump, with twice as much plastic trash and other litter covering its seabed compared to 10 years ago.

The amount of human refuse seen at the Arctic deep-sea observatory was found to be even greater than in a deep-sea canyon near the Portuguese capital of Lisbon.

arctic refuse

Climate Change

NASA scientists say they have discovered an astonishing algae bloom in the Arctic Ocean. When a team of NASA scientists pushed a hole through three feet of ice, they found waters richer in the microscopic marine plants known as phytoplankton than in any other ocean region on Earth. They have equated their discovery as one being ‘as dramatic and unexpected as finding a rainforest in the middle of a desert’. The discovery bodes well for the planet, as fast-growing phytoplankton consume large amounts of carbon dioxide.

On the other hand, a group of international scientists suggest that the Earth is reaching a “tipping point” in climate change that will lead to increasingly rapid and irreversible destruction of the global environment unless its effects are controlled by concerted international action.

In their report in Nature, the scientists say their research shows that many combined factors are thrusting the world toward the tipping point they foresee. Among the problems are these:

— The rapid growth in the world’s human population – to 9 billion or more by 2050 and possibly as many as 27 billion by the end of the century – is quickly consuming available resources.

Fossil fuels are being burned at a rapidly increasing rate, increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by 35 percent since the industrial revolution began. At the same time, ocean acidity has risen by 5 percent in the past 20 years.

— Ocean productivity is being diminished by vast “dead zones” where no fish swim, while 40 percent of Earth’s land mass that was once “biodiverse” now contains far fewer species of crop plants and domestic animals.

— More animal species than ever are becoming extinct, and many plant and animal species are being forced by global warming to seek new ranges that could place them at risk of extinction, as well.

— Within the next 60 years, the average global temperature “will be higher than it has been since the human species evolved.”

However, as with many climate change models, there remains an element of uncertainty in their predictions . . . .