Atmospheric transport of pollutants to the Barents Sea
Environmental pollutants are carried to the Barents Sea by both air and ocean currents, but the atmosphere is the fastest, most efficient mode of transport. The primary sources of the contaminants measured in the air are therefore found outside of the Arctic. For many years, a number of pollutants have been on the decline. In recent years, this trend has stagnated, and in some cases the transports have increased somewhat.
What is being monitored?
Cite these dataNILU – Norwegian Institute for Air Research (2022). HCB in the atmosphere in Svalbard. Environmental monitoring of Svalbard and Jan Mayen (MOSJ). URL: http://www.mosj.no/en/influence/pollution/pollution-air-pops.html
|HCB||pg/m3||NILU – Norwegian Institute for Air Research||93||116||98||92||99||82||88||56||55||56||54||65||67||71||67||73||76||79||81||83||81||83||86|
Cite these dataNILU – Norwegian Institute for Air Research (2022). PAHs in the atmosphere in Svalbard. Environmental monitoring of Svalbard and Jan Mayen (MOSJ). URL: http://www.mosj.no/en/influence/pollution/pollution-air-pops.html
|PAH||μg/1000m3||NILU – Norwegian Institute for Air Research||3.53||1.14||1.5||3.25||3.06||1.56||1.87||1.39||1.06||1.14||0.81||0.82||0.84||1.05||0.97||1.11||1.01||0.83||0.5||1.25||1.43||1.18|
Cite these dataNILU – Norwegian Institute for Air Research (2022). PCBs in the atmosphere in Svalbard. Environmental monitoring of Svalbard and Jan Mayen (MOSJ). URL: http://www.mosj.no/en/influence/pollution/pollution-air-pops.html
|PCB||pg/m3||NILU – Norwegian Institute for Air Research||37.1||27.7||19.8||18.1||25.7||28.3||30.9||29.3||19.3||13.1||10||10.8||10.1||11.2||12.7|
Cite these dataNILU – Norwegian Institute for Air Research (2022). PFOSA, PFOS and PFOA in the atmosphere in Svalbard. Environmental monitoring of Svalbard and Jan Mayen (MOSJ). URL: http://www.mosj.no/en/influence/pollution/pollution-air-pops.html
|PFOSA, PFOS and PFOA||ng/1000m3||NILU – Norwegian Institute for Air Research||2.04||1.47||1.48||1.84||3.82||1.73||1.31||1.25||1.17||0.45|
Cite these dataNILU – Norwegian Institute for Air Research (2022). Mercury in the atmosphere in Svalbard. Environmental monitoring of Svalbard and Jan Mayen (MOSJ). URL: http://www.mosj.no/en/influence/pollution/pollution-air-pops.html
|Mercury||ng/m3||NILU – Norwegian Institute for Air Research||1.79||1.62||1.59||1.18||1.55||1.76||1.5||1.56||1.6||1.61||1.5||1.58||1.6||1.683||1.58||1.546||1.56||1.515||1.511||1.47||1.48||1.49|
A high volume air sampler is employed with different kinds of filter depending on the component. The analytical technique is mainly GC/MS, but LC/MS-ESI is used for HBCD. Details regarding detection limits and methods are in the annual report from the Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency (see the reference). Results are reported on a weekly basis, and samples are taken over a period of 48 hours. Brominated substances are sampled weekly over a period of 72 hours.
The data coverage is incomplete because monitoring only takes place 2/3 days a week, which means that some episodes will not be detected. However, it is believed that the annual average reflects the load of such pollutants in Svalbard.
One two-day sample (48 hours) to be taken per week. Sampling of air for analysis of heavy metals in particles is performed using a Digitel high-volume sampler without a size-specific impactor. The air flow rate is 20 m3/h. The filters (Whatman 41) are digested using nitric acid/hydrogen peroxide in a microwave oven. The detection limit is 0.055 ng/m3.
The most established methods for monitoring pollutants are based on standard methodology (e.g. EMEP manual from 1995, revised 2001).
NILU’s laboratories are accredited in accordance with the following standards:
- ISO certified in accordance with NS-EN ISO 9001:2000
On 22 December 2006, Teknologisk institutt Sertifisering AS awarded NILU the ISO certificate, NS EN ISO 9001:2000, certificate number 580, for the production and delivery of research-based services and products on environment-related topics. The certificate is revised annually.
- NS-EN ISO/IEC 17025
NILU’s laboratories (organic and inorganic chemical analysis, instrument use and sampling) are accredited in accordance with NS-EN ISO/IEC 17025. The accreditation number is TEST 008.
- NILU is the national reference laboratory for air
In 2001, the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority appointed NILU as the national reference laboratory for air in Norway.
NILU takes part annually in various proficiency testing schemes and SLP’s, nationally and internationally. Internationally, it is EMEP which is most relevant, and the most recent report for organic pollutants is Schlabach, M., Aas, W., Hung, H., Rania, F. & Su, Y. 2011 NCP, AMAP and EMEP POP laboratory comparison 2010.
The methods and other relevant metadata are described in the annual reports from the Norwegian Climate and Pollution Agency (e.g. 1099/2011) and a brief description is cited along with the data in the official national and international database at NILU, EBAS.
Status and trend
In 2015, the concentrations of PCBs, PAHs and most pesticides measured in the air at Zeppelin were at the same level as or lower than in previous years. The levels of PCBs and brominated flame retardants (PBDE) vary from year to year, and no clear trends are discernible. PFASs and HBCD are mainly below the detection limit and no clear trends can be discerned.
Most of the PFAS compounds measured in Svalbard are below the analytical detection level; in other words, the levels are so low that they are not shown by the measurements. PFOS, PFOSA and PFOA are the compounds that are measured above the detection level more than any others.
The level of mercury measured in the air in Svalbard varies throughout the year. In winter, contaminated air is transported from western, central and eastern regions of Europe northwards, resulting in higher levels of mercury in the air in Svalbard. The levels are also high in summer. The cause is evaporation of mercury from the ocean, because the sea ice melts. In spring, episodes of high mercury levels in the air are much reduced. This is due to processes in the atmosphere that convert mercury to more reactive compounds that are deposited on the ground, the ice or the ocean surface. The majority of the mercury will evaporate back into the atmosphere. A small proportion will end up in sediments, the soil, lakes and in the ocean. Algae and bacteria can convert mercury into highly toxic methylmercury, which is how the mercury enters the food chain. Fish and mammals high up in the food chain bioaccumulate methylmercury through their food intake.
The concentrations of airborne pollutants in Svalbard are affected by emissions of pollutants in different parts of the world, with Europe and Asia making the greatest contributions. The concentrations are also affected by climatic conditions that impact the atmospheric modes of transport.
Climate change with increased temperatures is expected to cause intensified dispersal of pollutants globally. The melting of sea ice and thawing of permafrost may cause the remobilisation and evaporation of pollutants into the atmosphere in the Arctic. Large forest fires and cropland burning have been shown to increase the transport of organic pollutants to the Arctic. Increased local industrialisation (such as oil and gas activities and mining) and shipping in the High North may contribute to increased transport of some of the pollutants measured in the air in Svalbard.
The transport and levels of many of the pollutants measured in the air in Svalbard have continued to fall, but for some pollutants there have been slight increases in recent years. Causes are assumed to be continued use of environmental pollutants in different parts of the world, and pollutants being released from previous deposition in the environment by rising temperatures. Mercury levels have been stable since 2000.
About the monitoring
The monitoring is performed as part of the “Long-range transported pollutants in air and precipitation” programme under the Norwegian Environment Agency. The Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) performs the monitoring and also contributes results from its own measurement programme.
Places and areas
Relations to other monitoring
- Monitoring programme
- International environmental agreements
- Voluntary international cooperation
- Related monitoring