Scientists studying the atmosphere above Barrow, Alaska, have discovered unprecedented levels of molecular chlorine in the air, a new study reports.
Molecular chlorine, from sea salt released by melting sea ice, reacts with sunlight to produce chlorine atoms. These chlorine atoms are highly reactive and can oxidize many constituents of the atmosphere including methane and elemental mercury, as well activate bromine chemistry, which is an even stronger oxidant of elemental mercury. Oxidized mercury is more reactive and can be deposited to the Arctic ecosystem.
Arctic sea ice has been diminishing in recent decades, the Antarctic sea ice
extent has been increasing slightly.
Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology provide an
explanation for the seeming paradox of increasing Antarctic sea ice in a
warming climate. The paper appears in the Early Edition of the Proceedings of
the National Academy of Science the week of August 16, 2010.