Polychlorinated Biphenyls in a Temperate Alpine Glacier: 2. Model Results of Chemical Fate Processes

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  • Christine Steinlin
  • Christian Bogdal
  • Pavlina A. Pavlova
  • Margit Schwikowski
  • Martin P. Lüthi
  • Martin Scheringer
  • Peter Schmid
  • Konrad Hungerbühler

We present results from a chemical fate model quantifying incorporation of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Silvretta glacier, a temperate Alpine glacier located in Switzerland. Temperate glaciers, in contrast to cold glaciers, are glaciers where melt processes are prevalent. Incorporation of PCBs into cold glaciers has been quantified in previous studies. However, the fate of PCBs in temperate glaciers has never been investigated. In the model, we include melt processes, inducing elution of water-soluble substances and, conversely, enrichment of particles and particle-bound chemicals. The model is validated by comparing modeled and measured PCB concentrations in an ice core collected in the Silvretta accumulation area. We quantify PCB incorporation between 1900 and 2010, and discuss the fate of six PCB congeners. PCB concentrations in the ice core peak in the period of high PCB emissions, as well as in years with strong melt. While for lower-chlorinated PCB congeners revolatilization is important, for higher-chlorinated congeners, the main processes are storage in glacier ice and removal by particle runoff. This study gives insight into PCB fate and dynamics and reveals the effect of snow accumulation and melt processes on the fate of semivolatile organic chemicals in a temperate Alpine glacier.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science & Technology
Issue number24
Pages (from-to)14092-14100
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 15.12.2015

    Research areas

  • Chemistry - Organic chemicals, Polychlorinated biphenyls, Alpine glacier, Temperate glaciers, glacier