First evidence of microplastics in Antarctic snow

Type of content
Journal Article
Thesis discipline
Degree name
Copernicus GmbH
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Aves AR
Gaw S
Ruffell H
Schuddeboom A
Wotherspoon NE
LaRue M
McDonald AJ
Revell, Laura

In recent years, airborne microplastics have been identified in a range of remote environments. However, data throughout the Southern Hemisphere, in particular Antarctica, are largely absent to date. We collected snow samples from 19 sites across the Ross Island region of Antarctica. Suspected microplastic particles were isolated and their composition confirmed using micro-Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (µFTIR). We identified microplastics in all Antarctic snow samples at an average concentration of 29 particles L−1, with fibres the most common morphotype and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) the most common polymer. To investigate sources, backward air mass trajectories were run from the time of sampling. These indicate potential long-range transportation of up to 6000 km, assuming a residence time of 6.5 d. Local sources were also identified as potential inputs into the environment as the polymers identified were consistent with those used in clothing and equipment from nearby research stations. This study adds to the growing body of literature regarding microplastics as a ubiquitous airborne pollutant and establishes their presence in Antarctica.

Aves AR, Revell LE, Gaw S, Ruffell H, Schuddeboom A, Wotherspoon NE, LaRue M, McDonald AJ First evidence of microplastics in Antarctic snow. The Cryosphere. 16(6). 2127-2145.
Ngā upoko tukutuku/Māori subject headings
ANZSRC fields of research
0405 Oceanography
0406 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience
Fields of Research::37 - Earth sciences::3708 - Oceanography
Fields of Research::41 - Environmental sciences::4105 - Pollution and contamination
Fields of Research::37 - Earth sciences::3709 - Physical geography and environmental geoscience
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