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Arctic Haze

April 8, 2012

Walking through the North pole in the year 1893, the Norwegian explorer and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Fridtjof Nansen, noticed the ice under his feet was covered in dark stains, this left him puzzled as to why and how such a pristine area might become so dirty.

Even before Nansen’s trip to the pole other explorers and whalers as far back as the year 1750 had not only seen the same stains but had also noticed a foggy layer which appeared to surround the northern skies.

This phenomenon is now known as Arctic Haze, a seasonal effect caused by trans-boundary anthropogenic pollution notably the burning of fossil fuels and especially coal-burning in Asian power plants; many of the pollutants are sulfur, mercury, aluminium, vanadium, manganese, and the rest is carbon, this gives the haze an unusual reddish colour.

Although other greenhouse gases are helping to thaw the arctic ice sheets the haze is also an obvious source of our global climate problems as it is part of the man made phenomenon of Global Dimming. During the dark Arctic winters the haze mixes with thin clouds allowing them to trap heat more easily, this is due to the fact that there is no precipitation to wash out the aerosols out of the sky.

Depending on the quantities of pollutants present the haze may show various colors. A major problem with Arctic Haze is that because of the lack of precipitation the chemicals may remain in the atmosphere for considerable periods of time raising the temperatures by up to 5.4 Deg. C during the winter season.

Readers wishing to do some further research on the Arctic Haze phenomenon might like to read this excellent research paper from the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska

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