Transport of pollutants by ice and rivers

Sediments from polluted rivers are sometimes frozen into the ice and transported over the Arctic Ocean to the Fram Strait, where the ice melts and liberates the pollutants.


Photo: Ann Kristin Balto / Norwegian Polar Institute

Pollutants are often attached to particles and can thus be transported over long distances by ice.

The biggest areas where pollutants become frozen into the ice are around the Kara Sea, into which large rivers like the Yenisei, Ob and Lena flow. They cross vast areas of countryside where farming and industry supply pollution. The ice from the Kara Sea then drifts over the Arctic Ocean and follows the normal ice drift out through the Fram Strait, where the ice melts. This liberates the pollutants.

The full significance of this mode of transport in relation to ocean currents and the atmosphere is not known.