"Toxic Thaw Syndrome"

"Melting permafrost carries unknown dangers for Arctic marine life."

"On a small island in the Beaufort Sea, brown muck slides down tall cliffs, oozes into mud pools, and slithers into the ocean. It’s summer, and the permafrost is thawing. As the sediment enters the sea, it clouds the coastal waters, releasing organic carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. But that’s not all.

“We find large amounts of mercury and other pollutants,” says geoscientist Hugues Lantuit. “Anything that is caught in the soils is going to enter the coastal ocean.”

Some of those contaminants, which also include PCBs, DDT, and heavy metals, fall to the seafloor. Some will be taken into the food web. Previously, researchers have found high concentrations of mercury in polar bears, ringed seals, and beluga whales, for instance. That’s a problem not only here—on Qikiqtaruk (Herschel Island), off the Yukon coast, where Lantuit has studied for 15 summers—but also elsewhere in Yukon, as well as in Russia, Alaska, Greenland, and wherever warming air meets frozen ground."

Dan Zukowski reports for Hakai magazine January 11, 2018.

Source: Hakai, 01/12/2018