Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Glaciers. 2. Model Results of Deposition and Incorporation Processes

Steinlin, Christine; Bogdal, Christian; Scheringer, Martin; Pavlova, Pavlina A.; Schwikowski, Margit; Schmid, Peter; Hungerbühler, Konrad (2014). Polychlorinated Biphenyls in Glaciers. 2. Model Results of Deposition and Incorporation Processes. Environmental science & technology, 48(14), pp. 7849-7857. ACS Publications 10.1021/es501793h

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In previous work, Alpine glaciers have been identified as a secondary source of persistent organic pollutants (POPs). However, detailed understanding of the processes organic chemicals undergo in a glacial system was missing. Here, we present results from a chemical fate model describing deposition and incorporation of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into an Alpine glacier (Fiescherhorn, Switzerland) and an Arctic glacier (Lomonosovfonna, Norway). To understand PCB fate and dynamics, we investigate the interaction of deposition, sorption to ice and particles in the atmosphere and within the glacier, revolatilization, diffusion and degradation, and discuss the effects of these processes on the fate of individual PCB congeners. The model is able to reproduce measured absolute concentrations in the two glaciers for most PCB congeners. While the model generally predicts concentration profiles peaking in the 1970s, in the measurements, this behavior can only be seen for higher-chlorinated PCB congeners on Fiescherhorn glacier. We suspect seasonal melt processes are disturbing the concentration profiles of the lower-chlorinated PCB congeners. While a lower-chlorinated PCB congener is mainly deposited by dry deposition and almost completely revolatilized after deposition, a higher-chlorinated PCB congener is predominantly transferred to the glacier surface by wet deposition and then is incorporated into the glacier ice. The incorporated amounts of PCBs are higher on the Alpine glacier than on the Arctic glacier due to the higher precipitation rate and aerosol particle concentration on the former. Future studies should include the effects of seasonal melt processes, calculate the quantities of PCBs incorporated into the entire glacier surface, and estimate the quantity of chemicals released from glaciers to determine the importance of glaciers as a secondary source of organic chemicals to remote aquatic ecosystems.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences (DCBP)

Graduate School:

Graduate School of Climate Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Schwikowski, Margit


500 Science > 570 Life sciences; biology
500 Science > 540 Chemistry




ACS Publications




Monika Wälti-Stampfli

Date Deposited:

15 Oct 2014 14:57

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:37

Publisher DOI:






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