Photo of snow-topped mountains surrounded by water.
Aerial photo of the Nuup Kangerlua fjord in southwestern Greenland, one of the field locations where surface water samples were collected for this study. Credit: Algkalv, CC BY-SA 3.0
Editors’ Highlights are summaries of recent papers by AGU’s journal editors.
Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences

Lead (Pb), historically used as an additive in gasoline, is a global hazardous heavy metal that in its particle form was transported in the atmosphere, before being deposited sometimes into far away remote places. However, even with the phasing out of leaded gasoline, the amount of Pb currently found in glaciated environments is too high to be explained by atmospheric deposition alone.

Krause et al. [2023] seek to explain the elevated amounts of Pb in glaciers and glacier melt water. In a series of experiments, the authors incubated glacier-, iceberg-, and stream-derived sediments from glaciated coastlines in Antarctica and Greenland, then measured the release of Pb into seawater. Their experiments varied in timescales, sediment amounts and incubation temperature.

The results showed that much greater amounts of Pb were released with warmer temperatures. The study also shows that most of the Pb released is eventually re-adsorbed by the sediments which can explain the high amounts of Pb found in these polar environments. Glaciers have been receding globally at an accelerated rate, and this study provides important new information on the behavior, transport, and fate of Pb in two glaciated coastal environments.

Citation: Krause, J., Zhu, X., Höfer, J., Achterberg, E. P., Engel, A., Meire, L., et al. (2023). Glacier-derived particles as a regional control on marine dissolved Pb concentrations. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences, 128, e2023JG007514.

—Marguerite A. Xenopoulos, Editor in Chief, JGR: Biogeosciences

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