Industrial fly-ash records in Antarctic ice cores

Theme: Environmental Hazards & Pollution

Primary Supervisor:

Neil Rose

Geography, UCL

Neil Rose's Profile Picture

Secondary Supervisor:

Eloise Marais

Geography, UCL

Eloise Marais's Profile Picture

Project Description:

Spheroidal carbonaceous particles (SCPs) are a component of fly-ash, the particulate by-product of industrial high temperature combustion of fuel-oil and coal-series fuels. They have no other anthropogenic or natural sources. The global scale of SCP emission makes these particulates a clear signal of great stratigraphic utility, representing a primary driving force of global anthropogenic change. Consequently, SCPs may provide a useful marker for a mid-20th century Global boundary Stratigraphic Section and Point (GSSP) for the proposed Anthropocene Epoch (Rose, 2015).
Recently, SCPs have been identified for the first time in an Antarctic ice core from showing a presence back to 1936 CE. Furthermore, preliminary modelling and chemical analysis indicate a probable coal combustion source likely derived from Australian and/or South American emissions (Thomas et al, under review a;b). However, these data are from a single ice core and so raise many questions about the scale and extent of industrial particulate contamination in this area previously considered pristine.
This project would develop this work studying ice cores from the Palmer Land region and elsewhere that the British Antarctic Survey have stored. The aims would be to:
– Produce a more complete historical record of industrial deposition for the region
– Assess the spatio-temporal distribution of these pollutants across the Palmer and Ellsworth Land regions in Antarctica
– Develop chemical analysis and transport modelling processes to better define past, contemporary and changing sources
– Use these outputs to assess the implications for future emissions on the deposition of anthropogenic contaminants to Antarctica

Policy Impact of Research:

This project will contribute to highlighting the effective intercontinental dispersion and deposition of anthropogenic pollutants from industrial sources to remote and pristine environments. The outcomes of this project will raise awareness of the impacts of human activities, contributing to assessing limiting future production of a wide range of pollutants.

Stay informed

Click here to subscribe to our RSS newsletter by email.

Find Us

University College London is the administrative lead.

North-West Wing, UCL, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT

Follow us on Twitter