Research ArticleATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE

White and wonderful? Microplastics prevail in snow from the Alps to the Arctic

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Science Advances  14 Aug 2019:
Vol. 5, no. 8, eaax1157
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax1157
  • Fig. 1 Map of sampling locations for snow.

    (A) Sampling sites in the Arctic (ICE, ice floes; SV, Svalbard) and (B) in Europe (HL, Heligoland; BR, Bremen; BV, Bavaria; TSCH, Tschuggen; DV, Davos). (C) Overview of all locations. Size of circles reflects MP particle quantities at log scale.

  • Fig. 2 Particles detected in snow samples collected at different locations from Europe to the Arctic.

    (A) MP particle quantities recorded by FTIR at different locations. (B) Concentrations of microfibers detected at different locations (note that no polymers were identified). (C) Box-and-whiskers plot of proportions of MP numbers in different size classes from all snow samples. The upper and lower boundaries of the box indicate the 75th and 25th percentiles, respectively. The line within the box marks the median, error bars (in µm) indicate the 90th and 10th percentiles, and black diamonds represent outliers. (D) Relative composition of polymers identified by FTIR at different locations.

  • Fig. 3 Photographs of MPs detected in snow.

    (A) Polystyrene fiber from Svalbard 4 (length, 1101 μm); (B) polypropylene particle from Heligoland (diameter, 256 μm); (C) polyvinyl chloride fiber from Ice Floe 8 (length, 956 μm). Note that these particular two fibers could be analyzed by FTIR as they happened to lay plane on the filter. (D to F) Aluminum oxide filter with enriched snow sample. (G to I) Corresponding polymer-dependent false-color image after FTIR measurement and automated analysis. (D and G) Bavaria 2: The sample with most MPs; (E and H) Ice Floe 9: the sample with the third most MPs; (F and I) Bremen: The sample with intermediate MP numbers but many fibers (photo credit: S. Mützel, Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung).

  • Table 1 Details of snow-sampling campaigns.

    AWI, Alfred-Wegener-Institut. Helmholtz-Zentrum fur Polar- und Meeresforschung; SLF Davos, WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research.

    SampleAreaLongitude
    °N
    Latitude
    °E
    CruiseDateSamplerWind speed
    (m s−1)
    Ice Floe 1Arctic79.25762.3121PS99.207 July 2016AWI3.1
    Ice Floe 2Arctic78.59265.2376PS99.202 July 2016AWI6
    Ice Floe 3Arctic79.25762.3121PS99.230 June 2016AWI9–10
    Ice Floe 4aArctic80.09340.2253PS10830 August 2017AWI2.8–3.6
    Ice Floe 5Arctic80.09220.2212PS10830 August 2017AWI2.8–3.6
    Ice Floe 6Arctic80.09150.2203PS10830 August 2017AWI2.8–3.6
    Ice Floe 7Arctic80.09100.2163PS10830 August 2017AWI2.8–3.6
    Ice Floe 8Arctic80.09040.2156PS10830 August 2017AWI2.8–3.6
    Ice Floe 9Arctic79.03153.5447PS10704 August 2017AWI2.8–3.6
    Svalbard 1Arctic78.211816.5511Aemelire10 March 2018Citizens1–3
    Svalbard 2Arctic77.510716.2567Aemelire14 March 2018Citizens2
    Svalbard 3Arctic78.143315.4215Aemelire14 March 2018Citizens6
    Svalbard 4Arctic78.209118.4517Aemelire16 March 2018Citizens2
    Svalbard 5Arctic77.458617.0988Aemelire28 March 2018Citizens6
    Heligoland 1N. Germany54.18327.888417 March 2018AWI18
    Heligoland 2N. Germany54.18357.888317 March 2018AWI18
    BremenN. Germany53.06758.793125 February 2018AWI2.5
    Bavaria 1Alps47.650511.433519 March 2018Citizens2.5
    Bavaria 2Alps47.583711.392119 March 2018Citizens2.5
    Bavaria 3Alps47.436711.258719 March 2018Citizens2.5
    TschuggenAlps46.78409.921007 March 2018SLF Davos2.5
    DavosAlps46.79869.844807 March 2018SLF Davos2.5

Supplementary Materials

  • Supplementary material for this article is available at http://advances.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/5/8/eaax1157/DC1

    Fig. S1. Length frequency (%) of microfibers found in Arctic and European snow.

    Note S1. Calculation of propagation of uncertainty of results regarding possible contamination.

    Table S1. Concentration of MPs, fibers polymer types, and other particles detected in snow samples.

    Table S2. Concentration of MPs, fibers, polymer types, and other particles detected in snow samples as well as size frequency distribution and metadata.

    Table S3. Number, size, and color of fibers measured in Arctic and European snow samples.

    Table S4. Concentration, composition, and size of MPs detected in blank samples.

  • Supplementary Materials

    The PDF file includes:

    • Fig. S1. Length frequency (%) of microfibers found in Arctic and European snow.
    • Note S1. Calculation of propagation of uncertainty of results regarding possible contamination.
    • Table S1. Concentration of MPs, fibers polymer types, and other particles detected in snow samples.

    Download PDF

    Other Supplementary Material for this manuscript includes the following:

    • Table S2 (Microsoft Excel format). Concentration of MPs, fibers, polymer types, and other particles detected in snow samples as well as size frequency distribution and metadata.
    • Table S3 (Microsoft Excel format). Number, size, and color of fibers measured in Arctic and European snow samples.
    • Table S4 (Microsoft Excel format). Concentration, composition, and size of MPs detected in blank samples.

    Files in this Data Supplement:

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