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Temporal and spatial variability of atmospheric POPs in the Canadian Arctic : results from a decade of monitoring.

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Hayley H. Hung
  • P. Blanchard
  • Crispin J. Halsall
  • T. F. Bidleman
  • G. A. Stern
  • P. Fellin
  • D. C. G. Muir
  • L. A. Barrie
  • L. M. Jantunen
  • P. A. Helm
  • J. Ma
  • A. Konoplev
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>15/04/2005
<mark>Journal</mark>Science of the Total Environment
Issue number1-3
Number of pages26
Pages (from-to)119-144
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The Northern Contaminants Program (NCP) baseline monitoring project was established in 1992 to monitor for persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in Arctic air. Under this project, weekly samples of air were collected at four Canadian and two Russian arctic sites, namely Alert, Nunavut; Tagish, Yukon; Little Fox Lake, Yukon; Kinngait, Nunavut; Dunai Island, Russia and Amderma, Russia. Selected POPs, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine (OC) pesticides, were analyzed in both the gas and particulate phases. This paper summarizes results obtained from this project in the past 5 years. Temporal trends were developed for atmospheric PCBs and OCs observed at Alert using a digital filtration (DF) technique. It was found that trends developed with 5 years of data (1993–1997) did not differ significantly from those determined with 7 years of data (1993–1999). This implies that with the DF technique, long-term trends can still be developed with less than 10 years of data. An acceleration in decline of OC and PCB air concentrations was noted in 1999 for some compounds, although the reason is unknown. Monitoring efforts must continue to assess the effect of this decline on the long-term trends of POPs in the Canadian Arctic. Occasional high trans-/cis-chlordane ratios and heptachlor air concentrations measured at Alert between 1995 and 1997 suggests sporadic fresh usage of chlordane-based pesticides. However, significant decreasing trends of chlordanes along with their chemical signatures has provided evidence that emission of old soil residues is replacing new usage as an important source to the atmosphere. Measurements of OC air concentrations conducted at Kinngait in 1994–1995 and 2000–2001 indicated faster OC removal at this location than at Alert. This may be attributed to the proximity of Kinngait to temperate regions where both biotic and abiotic degradation rates are faster. The PAH concentrations observed at Alert mimic those at mid-latitudes and are consistent with long-range transport to the Arctic, particularly for the lighter PAHs. A decline in particulate PAH was observed, similar to atmospheric sulphate aerosol and can be attributed to the collapse of industrial activity in the former Soviet Union between 1991 and 1995. Spatial comparisons of OC seasonality at Alert, Tagish, Dunai and Kinngait show elevated air concentrations of some compounds in spring. However, elevated spring concentrations were observed for different compounds at different sites. Potential causes are discussed. Further investigation in the atmospheric flow pattern in spring which is responsible for the transport of POPs into the Arctic is required. OC and PCB air concentrations at Alert were found to be influenced by two climate variation patterns, the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and the Pacific North American (PNA) pattern. Planetary atmospheric patterns must be taken into account in the global prediction and modelling of POPs in the future.