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Scientists have found surprising evidence of rapid climate change in the Arctic: In the middle of the Arctic Ocean near the North Pole, they discovered that the levels of radium-228 have almost doubled over the last decade.
The finding indicates that large-scale changes are happening along the coast—because the source of the radium is the land and shallow continental shelves surrounding the ocean. These coastal changes, in turn, could also be delivering more nutrients, carbon, and other chemicals into the Arctic Ocean and lead to dramatic impacts on Arctic food webs and animal populations.
Research - Team - Woods - Hole - Oceanographic
The research team, led by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), suspects that melting sea ice has left more open water near the coast for winds to create waves. The wave action reaches down to the shallow shelves and stirs up sediments, releasing radium that is carried to the surface and away into the open ocean. The same mechanism would likely also mobilize and deliver more nutrients, carbon, and other chemicals into the Arctic Ocean, fueling the growth of plankton at the bottom of the food chain. That, in turn, could have significant impacts on fish and marine mammals and change the Arctic ecosystem.
The study was published Jan. 3, 2018, in the journal Science Advances. The research team included Lauren Kipp, Matthew Charette, and Paul Henderson (WHOI), Willard Moore (University of South Carolina), and Ignatius Rigor (University of Washington).
Scientists - Radium-228 - Flow - Material - Land
Scientists have long used radium-228 to track the flow of material from land and sediments into the ocean. It is a naturally occurring isotope produced by the radioactive decay of thorium in sediments. But unlike thorium, it dissolves into water, where scientists can track the sources, amounts, rates, and direction of its flow, said Kipp, who is lead author of the study and a graduate student in the MIT-WHOI Joint Program...
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