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Trillions of Plastic Pieces May Be Trapped In Arctic Ice

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the plastic-ice dept.

Earth 136

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Humans produced nearly 300 million tons of plastic in 2012, but where does it end up? A new study has found plastic debris in a surprising location: trapped in Arctic sea ice. As the ice melts, it could release a flood of floating plastic onto the world. From the article: 'Scientists already knew that microplastics—polymer beads, fibers, or fragments less than 5 millimeters long—can wind up in the ocean, near coastlines, or in swirling eddies such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. But Rachel Obbard, a materials scientist at Dartmouth College, was shocked to find that currents had carried the stuff to the Arctic.'"

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It didn't take long to leave our mark in the sea (4, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | about 6 months ago | (#47072945)

This reminds me of that passage in Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun [amazon.com] where the inhabitants of a far-future Earth note how the debris of past ages is all around them:

I have heard those who dig for their livelihood say there is no land anywhere in which they can trench without turning up the shards of the past. No matter where the spade turns the soil, it uncovers broken pavements and corroding metal; and scholars write that the kind of sand that artists call polychrome (because flecks of every color are mixed with its whiteness) is actually not sand at all, but the glass of the past, now pounded to powder by aeons of tumbling in the clamorous sea.

Instead of aeons needed to turn glass to microparticles, humanity has managed to litter the seas with plastic bits in only around a century. If humanity goes extinct, perhaps one day visitors from another planet would know there was once sentient life here from the remains of our PET bottles and beer six-pack rings in the ice?

Re:It didn't take long to leave our mark in the se (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073001)

There was a story on NPR radio a couple days ago..

http://www.npr.org/2014/05/21/313157701/why-those-tiny-microbeads-in-soap-may-pose-problem-for-great-lakes

If I remember right those micro plastic beads absorb toxins, and anything that east them is also exposed to toxins, such as fish, then humans not to mention the damage they cause to the environment.

Maybe a little of topic, but the article is about plastics, and the Arctic Ice.

Minute Plastic particles (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073197)

Plastics that are still in visible pieces are nuisance, and all oceans have tons and tons and TONS of plastic based flotsam - I worked as a sailor before and even in the middle of a big ocean we saw plastic garbage floating

But the real danger are those teeny tiny plastic particles

Most plastic breaks down after prolonged exposure to sunlight, and they kept breaking apart as time goes by, until they became teeny tiny plastic (polymer) particles which inevitably end up in the food-chain (sea creatures - little fishes - bigger fishes - entrees in restaurants - people's stomach) and sooner and later all of us start eating food containing plastic particles

Yes, even those so-called bio-degradable plastics only degrade until they become teeny tiny polymer particles, and then stop degrading

What kind of problem will those plastic particles do to our health ? Anybody knows ?

Re:It didn't take long to leave our mark in the se (2)

Sockatume (732728) | about 6 months ago | (#47073005)

I recall reading somewhere - and I hope a historian can come along and correct this - that most modern settlements are at a significant elevation because they're on top of the middens and trash of all the previous settlers on that site. If we actually dug out the areas we currently stand on, we'd find all sorts of interesting trash.

Re:It didn't take long to leave our mark in the se (4, Insightful)

captainpanic (1173915) | about 6 months ago | (#47073125)

Firstly a disclaimer: I am not the historian you asked for (i.e. no expert). But I do have 2 cents to add to this comment.

I think cities/towns were often built on high ground as a prevention against flooding. People want to live near fresh water for irrigation, but still keep their houses dry.
Therefore, the main elevation of the town centers is not a giant pile of old trash, but a natural elevation (also known as a "hill"). But it is true that people would discard old items into a canal or river, or just in the mud, and in old cities you will almost always find something if you dig down.

Re:It didn't take long to leave our mark in the se (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 6 months ago | (#47073279)

True, but the effect I was thinking of was more conspicuously artificial.

Re:It didn't take long to leave our mark in the se (1)

cusco (717999) | about 6 months ago | (#47074959)

When we were in Rome a few years ago there was a ruin undergoing excavation in the middle of the city. You could walk over to the edge of the excavation and look down about 7 or 8 meters to where the work was being done, since the subsequent 20 centuries of occupation had added that much elevation. There are places like the Parthenon which have been in continuous use and are in a slight dip in the terrain because trash was not allowed to accumulate there. IIRC they had to stop a planned subway expansion because the tunneling kept running into archeological sites.

Re:It didn't take long to leave our mark in the se (2)

rgbatduke (1231380) | about 6 months ago | (#47075151)

I gotta say, are we talking about the same Parthenon? The one built at the top of a hill overlooking Athens as pretty nearly the sole structure on the hilltop?

It doesn't precisely show the elevations, but:

https://maps.google.com/maps?o... [google.com]

is one view, or perhaps this will do better:

http://www.greatbuildings.com/... [greatbuildings.com]

As you can see, it is pretty much on top of a mesa. So I'm not sure where your "slight dip in the terrain" could possibly be.

I only point this out not because your argument is implausible in general, but your specific example is one of my favorite places on Earth and although I've only been fortunate enough to visit it in person twice in my lifetime (so far) I remember the walk up from Athens proper quite well, including stopping in some of the many small taverns that are along the trek for octopus and retsina.

rgb

Re:It didn't take long to leave our mark in the se (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47076317)

Well, he said he was in Rome when he saw it, so I think you are probably not talking about the same Parthenon, as the one he was talking about is imaginary.

Re:It didn't take long to leave our mark in the se (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073369)

Yes, cities were often built on hills etc, especially churches in medieval times (god being the highest and providing shelter in case of floods), but in really ancient cities old relics are always some part underground. This is noticeable if you travel through southern europe and find that the floor of roman buildings was some feet (6-8 in some cases) below modern street level. In the middle east and surrounding areas there are/were cities built on the same point for thousands of years, adding quite a bit to the elevation. If you see a place named "Tell ..." or "... Tepe" it's (usually) such a hill by settlement.

Re:It didn't take long to leave our mark in the se (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 6 months ago | (#47073257)

I recall reading somewhere - and I hope a historian can come along and correct this - that most modern settlements are at a significant elevation because they're on top of the middens and trash of all the previous settlers on that site. If we actually dug out the areas we currently stand on, we'd find all sorts of interesting trash.

Chicago is about 3' higher than it's supposed to be and juts out into the lake quite a ways because it's built on top the great fire of 1871. There are still a few buildings left from before the fire that sit significantly bellow street level. They look odd when driving through the area.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G... [wikipedia.org]

Re:It didn't take long to leave our mark in the se (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47074535)

Actually most of the buildings and homes you see below street level, are due to the way the sewer systems were created and NOT due to the fire.
See: Raising of Chicago [wikipedia.org]

Re:It didn't take long to leave our mark in the se (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073603)

Yes.
This, actually, is common knowledge.
Some places are built on previous garbage dumps--with enough of covering material that the garbage dump was not apparent. This is just the same as things being built on top of graves, graveyards, hazardous places and other things.
Some places that are existing partially cover garbage dumps. That is, "modern" cities and places may be larger than the original.

Without this happening, we would lose a lot of horror stories so it isn't a bad thing necessarily. (LOL!)

Re:It didn't take long to leave our mark in the se (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073113)

Yeah. You obviously are a victim of general delusion and monkeying media and general nonsense opinions.
It is already known that new microbes evolved which can consume plastic and disintegrate it. With time evolution will find the answer. Extrapolation that organisms multiply few times each until they consume earth and eventually - universe is sadly have little resemblance to truth, hovewer mathematically correct it is.

it is just that being alarmist is so fashionable nowadays

Re:It didn't take long to leave our mark in the se (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about 6 months ago | (#47073249)

It is already known that new microbes evolved which can consume plastic and disintegrate it

While it is known that scientists have found microbes in landfill sites and plastic floatsam in the sea that can consume / digest plastics, it is still an unknown whether those microbes could break down the many types of toxin that are embedded inside the plastics, such as phthalates, or merely pass the toxins intact, on to the next higher level organism on the food chain

http://www.nature.com/news/201... [nature.com]

Re:It didn't take long to leave our mark in the se (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073499)

Rather, it would present a mystery and a quandry...

A sophisticated engineering and manufacturing society without the intelligence to throw out the trash properly?

Hopefully, these imaginary visitors will have a plastic based life/society/economy and think they have found Treasure Island!

Re:It didn't take long to leave our mark in the se (1)

invid (163714) | about 6 months ago | (#47073525)

Great book.

Make up your mind.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47072947)

It's melting it's not melting....

Re:Make up your mind.. (4, Insightful)

Travis Mansbridge (830557) | about 6 months ago | (#47073047)

When it gets cold, water turns to ice. When it gets warm, ice turns to water. The fact that both of these things occur naturally is not a statement on climate change.

Re:Make up your mind.. (1)

Layzej (1976930) | about 6 months ago | (#47073685)

It freezes in the winter. It melts in the summer. The overall trend is down: http://www.woodfortrees.org/pl... [woodfortrees.org]

With global warming... (0, Troll)

usacoder (816957) | about 6 months ago | (#47072955)

the plastic won't be trapped for long.

Re:With global warming... (1)

peragrin (659227) | about 6 months ago | (#47073069)

Possible but I think this Ducks cross the Arctic [wikipedia.org] . shows that the researcher is a moron. This has been happening for years.

You have misunderstood entirely (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 6 months ago | (#47073263)

It's amazement that it is happening so much instead of amazement that it is happening at all. That is the difference between an observer getting a better quantitative idea and a "moron".

the Arctic?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47072959)

I'm shocked, shocked to find that plastic is going here!

Argl (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47072973)

When I read stuff like this, sometimes I'm ashamed to be a human being. :(

Re:Argl (-1, Troll)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 6 months ago | (#47073471)

You're ashamed that humans invented plastics, which have greatly improved (and even saved) countless lives?

You should become an environmentalist. The entire thesis of their movement is that humans are a disease on this planet (yet oddly enough don't seem to have the balls to actually commit mass suicide themselves). You would fit right in. Maybe you could form a lovely drum circle and all rant about all the ills we terrible humans have brought on the world. Don't forget to get in line for the group tree hug!

Re:Argl (1)

Evtim (1022085) | about 6 months ago | (#47074129)

The humans are parasites only under the current paradigm not per se. You seem to be under the delusion that it is "our way or the highway" situation. False dichotomy it is called. All docile, ignorant, sociopathic and moronic people use this "argument"

Re:Argl (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47074251)

That would mean you are a liberal. Liberalism is a philosophy for losers. For the inferior. It is shame-based. It is for the pussies of the world, which would explain it's tremendous success.

1 TRILLION pieces of plastic!!! (5, Interesting)

dinfinity (2300094) | about 6 months ago | (#47072981)

nearly 300 million tons of plastic in 2012 [...] reaching 288 million tonnes in 2012

http://bash.org/?2999 [bash.org]

Estimates of how much of that production has been trapped in Arctic ice provided in the article:
- "[some of] much of [the total amount of plastic produced]"
- "more than 1 trillion pieces of plastic"
- "abundances of hundreds of ['fragments less than 5 millimeters long' selected using a microscope] per cubic meter"

Would have really hurt to estimate the weight of those fragments? One plastic bag could easily end up as a million pieces of plastic. About one plastic bag or 10 grams of plastic per 10.000 cubic meters sounds a lot less dramatic, I guess.

Re:1 TRILLION pieces of plastic!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073149)

It's the smallest particles that are the most dangerous. They get eaten by small organisms, which get eaten by larger ones, and which eventually become our food.

Also, it is important to mention really large numbers if you want to get attention in the media. One trillion particles!! *puts pinky finger near corner of mouth*

Perhaps it would be even better to change the title: "1 trillion reasons to clean up the Antarctic. What you read in this article will blow your mind!"

Re:1 TRILLION pieces of plastic!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073251)

"You won't believe what happens next!"

Re:1 TRILLION pieces of plastic!!! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 6 months ago | (#47073345)

It's the smallest particles that are the most dangerous. They get eaten by small organisms, which get eaten by larger ones, and which eventually become our food.

The question then becomes, how dangerous are these plastic particles in our food? Most of them aren't that dangerous to us on that basis, because they are very very stable. If they weren't, they wouldn't be floating around in the ocean waiting for UV to break them down.

Re:1 TRILLION pieces of plastic!!! (2)

dinfinity (2300094) | about 6 months ago | (#47073787)

Yes, and even though I'm speculating here, I'd say that it is also quite likely that the particles would simply be excreted by us and our food. In fact, if that were the case, one would expect the particles to become less prevalent as you move higher up the food chain and even then mostly in the contents of the digestive tract of the animals (which most people avoid eating. I know I do).

I'm not saying that the particles couldn't be dangerous at all, or that dumping plastics into the ocean isn't terrible, just that when it comes to 'small stuff that could be bad for your health' there is a difference between sand, heavy metal ions, asbestos and algae. Alarmist 'plastic is bad, mmkay' isn't going to do us a service.

Related subject matter:
http://www.nature.com/news/201... [nature.com]

Re:1 TRILLION pieces of plastic!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073465)

A big plastic bag in the arctic ice wouldn't be that bad, a nuissance but no further harm. The microscopic pieces get eaten by animals and eventually end up in your food.

where this stuff comes from (4, Interesting)

nimbius (983462) | about 6 months ago | (#47072985)

these tiny bits exist for a few reasons.
1. Natural photodegradation permits older plastics to disintegrate into smaller pieces. new plastics impregnated with photo-inhibitors resist this for a seemingly infinite span of time unfortunately.
2. industrial processes like bead-blasting and resurfacing may sometimes rely on plastics instead of formed metal shot as its cheaper in many cases. plastics are also often fluid-formed from tiny pellets or beads shipped across the world, so naturally losing a conex full of them would contribute.
3. cosmetics. Pomace, apricot and peach pits used to act as surfactants in many soaps however seasonal limitations of production and particulate dimension were always a factor. They also didnt perform well in gelatinous suspensions like body washes. reprocessing and shredding waste plastics from other manufacturing processes however proved far more economical and reliable. As a result, the "micro beads" in your bottle of Gillette body wash are likely made from reprocessed Gillette body wash bottles that were damaged or defective during the injection moulding process.

Re:where this stuff comes from (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47074827)

you don't live in la florida, do you ?
it is nearly impossible for plastic products to last any significant amount of time down here, when it is exposed to sun/heat/rain for a couple years...
got tired of buying new plastic buckets every couple years, so now i only buy old school galvanized steel ones which last -relatively speaking- forever...
plastic crap gets dried out, brittle, faded, broken within a year or two of exposure...
(yes, there are *some* few plastics -the dense, 'oily' kind, that last longer (NOTE: longer, not indefinitely), but i don't 'trust' those plastics, something is wrong with them...)

It is a good reason to melt the ice cap... (1)

Craig Cruden (3592465) | about 6 months ago | (#47073053)

You can't clean up all that garbage without sifting through all the ice...... Thanks, I needed an excuse to continue helping melt the ice cap :p

Remember (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073067)

Environmentalist told us it was much better to use plastic bags than paper. Their argument is that it saved trees. My argument is that as long as there is industry that needed paper, tree farms would exist and an equilibrium state would also exist. Paper biodegrades quite nicely, thank you. So instead of reason, we now have billions of plastic bags that won't decompose in the lifetime of my 50th generation of descendants.

Re:Remember (1)

hubie (108345) | about 6 months ago | (#47073137)

I don't ever recall environmentalists advocating single-use plastic bags over paper.

Re:Remember (2)

Stumbles (602007) | about 6 months ago | (#47073207)

I do. Just go back to the last century like the 60s and 70s.

Re:Remember (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073259)

I do too. Thing is, you have to look at the entire process to determine which is "environmentally better". It takes a lot of energy to make paper bags...

Re:Remember (1)

Stumbles (602007) | about 6 months ago | (#47073379)

I don't know that is actually true and have not seen any studies to support one being "more efficient" than the other. Even if paper were less efficient it is way more biodegradable than any plastic. As others have mentioned in this thread, plastic will degrade but not totally like paper. I just remember back when "tree huggers" seemed to be constantly in the news and were more than willing to support any solution so long as some owl had someplace to perch.

Re:Remember (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073387)

I do too. Thing is, you have to look at the entire process to determine which is "environmentally better". It takes a lot of energy to make paper bags...

I live in a nation that exports a lot of wood and paper. (A side benefit is that paper bags are of really high quality since the paper haven't been recycled much yet.)
Energy production is about half hydroelectric and half nuclear. There is a coal power plant that was built for experimental purposes but I am not sure if it is in use.
I suspect that using paper bags is a lot more environmental friendly for me than it is for someone who lives in a country that uses mainly coal power.

Re:Remember (1)

parkinglot777 (2563877) | about 6 months ago | (#47073339)

Don't need to go back that far (or maybe it was the beginning?). I've heard about it in late 80s...

Re:Remember (1, Informative)

NotDrWho (3543773) | about 6 months ago | (#47073489)

I remember it too. It was during the tree-hugging phase in the 70's, IIRC. Environmentalism is a notoriously faddish religion. And at that time it was all the rage to "save the trees." In the 80's this would be dumped in favor of the new hip "save the ozone layer."

Re:Remember (1)

Layzej (1976930) | about 6 months ago | (#47076331)

Just go back to the last century like the 60s and 70s.

Ok, I went back to the 60's. It was nutty, no doubt, but no one mentioned plastic vs paper while I was there. Perhaps you could include a citation?

Re:Remember (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 6 months ago | (#47073421)

I doubt environmentalists anticipated that we'd be getting a polyethylene bag large enough to fit a whole turkey for every single purchase. The very rapid pivot against plastic bags seems entirely justified, and the right decision, doesn't it?

Re:Remember (1)

Cro Magnon (467622) | about 6 months ago | (#47073715)

I doubt environmentalists anticipated that we'd be getting a polyethylene bag large enough to fit a whole turkey for every single purchase.

Doesn't your grocery store double-bag? I get TWO such polyethylene bags per item. :-P

Re:Remember (1)

operagost (62405) | about 6 months ago | (#47074465)

The turkey might fit (if it's small), but the bag is so thin that it's unlikely to actually HOLD it. I don't think the size of the bag (which is much less than of the old brown paper bags) is the problem.

Re:Remember (1)

Jason Levine (196982) | about 6 months ago | (#47073599)

And people once imagined that nuclear power would power homes, batteries, cars, etc. As we learn more about a given item, viewpoints change. So when the threat seemed to be "chopping down tons of trees to make paper bags", plastic seemed the better option. Now, though, we see that plastic bags are an even bigger threat to the environment so that's changed. Reusable canvas bags are now considered the best option.

Sea ice age (2, Insightful)

WhiteZook (3647835) | about 6 months ago | (#47073097)

Most of the current sea ice is less than 10 years old, as the ice regular melts in the summer, and is replaced by fresh ice in the winter. It's hard to imagine that there are significant amounts of plastic trapped in the ice compared to plastic that is free floating in the ocean.

Where did you get that fact from? (2)

crovira (10242) | about 6 months ago | (#47074265)

Most of the current sea ice is less than 10 years old is suspiciously in need of references.

Re:Where did you get that fact from? (1)

Truth_Quark (219407) | about 6 months ago | (#47074591)

Zook is right about that. Older sea ice has been decimated in the last decade [icdc.zmaw.de] .
The evidence is that his imagination regarding plastic trapped in the sea ice is lacking, but he's right about the age of Arctic sea ice.

Re:Where did you get that fact from? (1)

WhiteZook (3647835) | about 6 months ago | (#47075209)

There could still be a lot of plastic in the Arctic of course. Some currents are more likely to collect the plastic in one area, and it's plausible something like that is happening in the Arctic. But adding the "trapped in ice" doesn't really make sense, if there's a constant exchange between water and ice, and each having the same concentration of plastic.

I'm so shocked... (1)

dam.capsule.org (183256) | about 6 months ago | (#47073101)

But Rachel Obbard, a materials scientist at Dartmouth College, was shocked to find that currents had carried the stuff to the Arctic.

So you dump stuff into a giant whirlpool and you're shocked to find that the stuff ends up in various random place. Maybe they thought it would magically disappear ? Oh sorry, we are talking about science.

I was looking at a river last fall and was shocked to see all the dead leaves agglomerated at a few random place.

Re:I'm so shocked... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 6 months ago | (#47073267)

The world's oceans aren't just a big bucket where everything mixes together. In fact one of the characteristic features of the Arctic ocean is that it doesn't strongly interact with the neighbouring systems. That's why it's surprising that there's a significant amount of pollution there.

Now, if you knew even the first thing about oceanography, you should have known that. I'm not sure if you just have a blind spot for your own lack of information on this topic, or were wilfully ignorant, but assumed you were right out of blind luck.

Re:I'm so shocked... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073331)

I think you're missing the OPs bigger point and I'm forced, by your tone, to believe that you're missing it on purpose... The same ilk of scientists who are trying to tell us about climate modeling are the same as the ones who are having a hard time grasping why this kind of contamination is going on? Really? And yet they wonder how the masses can be skeptical about their predictions. Not to mention the tons of predictions that these same people have made from models that are obviously flawed that never came to fruition.
 
Not to even mention that you don't need a strong interaction between these bodies for cross contamination. Thinking that is simply ignorant. This is plastic we're talking about here, not the dynamics of oceanic salinity. If a highly dynamic system such a salinity is influenced by these interaction how the hell could you possibly EVER think that something as stable as plastics wouldn't?!?! You'd have to be a moron to think that a stable element in the flows of the ocean would somehow be less likely to cause cross contamination than something that is relatively unstable like salinity.
 
Stop being such a jerk.

Re:I'm so shocked... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 6 months ago | (#47073407)

Where are you getting "hard time grasping why" from? They literally wrote the paper on how it works. They're not having a hard time grasping anything.

And how in the heck are oceanographers studying plastic particles "the same ilk of scientists who are trying to tell us about climate modelling"?

For that matter, where are you getting "OPs bigger point from" in the first place? I've seen some contrived efforts to bring up a pet peeve in someone else's conversation, but this... okay, it's actually a pretty typical example of the form.

Re:I'm so shocked... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073651)

Where are you getting "hard time grasping why" from? They literally wrote the paper on how it works. They're not having a hard time grasping anything.
 
  But Rachel Obbard, a materials scientist at Dartmouth College, was shocked to find that currents had carried the stuff to the Arctic.
 
"It was such a surprise to me to find them in such a remote region,” she says. “These particles have come a long way.”

 
Come again?
 
  And how in the heck are oceanographers studying plastic particles "the same ilk of scientists who are trying to tell us about climate modelling"?
 
Really? Ok. I see we have a user here who knows nothing about climate models.
 
  For that matter, where are you getting "OPs bigger point from" in the first place? I've seen some contrived efforts to bring up a pet peeve in someone else's conversation, but this... okay, it's actually a pretty typical example of the form.
 
Just admit that you did some serious jackassing and move along. It's obvious that you're more ignorant than the OP.

Re:I'm so shocked... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073411)

Not all of us hold a PhD in whatever subject we're reading a report on. If the article failed to mention this bit of pertinent information (why is the researcher so shocked? journo didn't catch it because too out of breath while reporting on the state of being shocked?) then it failed to properly inform.

Blaming the reader for this is maybe not the most useful thing you could've contributed.

On the subject of vaguely useful ideas, though it would indubitably be better if the stuff didn't get dumped Out There in the first place, what would be the technical feasibility of fishing the stray plastics out of swirling eddies and such? Won't get'em all, but how about a large percentage, how doable is that technically? Not talking geopolitically, we'll save that discussion for another day.

Re:I'm so shocked... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 6 months ago | (#47073437)

I'm not blaming the reader for not understanding. I'm blaming them for arguing that the scientist in the article was a moron. If you want to do that, you better not display your own complete ignorance of the subject in your argument.

For what it's worth, if this AC had bothered to read the article and not just the summary:

"It was such a surprise to me to find them in such a remote region,” she says. “These particles have come a long way.”

I can't view the comments (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073203)

on this article in classic mode, even if i click the classic version return link above.

And what's with all the white space? Doesn't the designer like reading or information density, or does he/she just really enjoy looking at empty white spaces all day?

http://halgatewood.com/thisisawebsite/

it cannot be a great quantity of plastic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073247)

Most of the old ice which we are losing by melting are very very old ice. The ice where the plastic bit could be are surface ice near the coast and year & decade young ice. And those are cyclic so trap & release should be a constant quantity.

Re:it cannot be a great quantity of plastic (2)

Truth_Quark (219407) | about 6 months ago | (#47073299)

The current that comes up past Europe from the Atlantic sinks [greenfudge.org] and flows back beneath the surface. Plastic that floats will accumulate at the surface around Greenland, and may spread around the Arctic Ocean.

How? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073281)

I thought global warming made the ice melt, not grow.

Re:How? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 6 months ago | (#47073453)

Seasons. Every year the ice sheets grow and shrink.

I'm more worried about pollution than climate (1)

SocietyoftheFist (316444) | about 6 months ago | (#47073347)

It is stuff like this that bums me out, not the fact that we are so young on this planet that we are surprised that climate isn't stable.

Re:I'm more worried about pollution than climate (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073493)

What in the World do you think is causing AGW? Pixie dust?

Unfortunately, most people do not understand the fact that we humans are art of this planet and since there are BILLIONS of us, we are having a horrible effect on this planets ecosystem.

People will deny that it's possible because the planet is so big and old and survived "worse" but they fail to remember that many species DID NOT survive what the Earth has gone through.

AND a tinny tiny bacteria are able to take out a human. Just like tinny tiny humans can take out a planet.

When you consider all these "little" insults we put upon the environment, we humans are one of the most destructive things that has ever happened to this planet.

Re:I'm more worried about pollution than climate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073679)

And why should we be exempt from this extinction process?

If our presence here is so injurious and upsetting the current balance then the world will go through another extinction and cull us if not erliminate us completely. no problem. life will go on. evolution will refill the niches. I have no fear of a natural extinction event or even a targeted thing like a pandemic, but a natural pandemic.

the thing that concerns me is a targeted pandemic created by man to cull man because that will include a preperatory step of selectively immunizing those in power who think they deserve to live. the natural pandemic would cut through all classes, stations, races, taking its fair share everywhere.

Re:I'm more worried about pollution than climate (1)

SocietyoftheFist (316444) | about 6 months ago | (#47074031)

Extinction comes from not being able to adapt to change, and we need to focus on that. We can't stop the change.

Re:I'm more worried about pollution than climate (1)

clonehappy (655530) | about 6 months ago | (#47073731)

I like tinny humans. Helps to solder them together better.

Re:I'm more worried about pollution than climate (2)

SocietyoftheFist (316444) | about 6 months ago | (#47074025)

We aren't even nearly as warm as we've been in the past via the flora and fauna record and we've stalled for the past 6 years, actually cooled the last couple of years, which no models predicted. It's theory, not fact because there are holes that can't be explained in the theory. Societies have grown and collapsed due to climate change in the past so what we need to focus on is dealing with climate variation. Check out the snow pack in the Colorado Rockies right now, runoff hasn't even taken off yet due to cold and snow, it is just starting to build now, in late May. Arapahoe Basin ski area is still open with a 73" base. It stays open until early May through early June usually but might even make it to July 4th this year like it did in 2011 when the base was in the 90" range in May. So twice in four years the snow pack is well above median and average.

Re:I'm more worried about pollution than climate (1)

ideonexus (1257332) | about 6 months ago | (#47075023)

"...we've stalled for the past 6 years, actually cooled the last couple of years..."

I realize there's a legitimate debate over how many years constitutes which, but I think you fall in the category of people confusing weather and climate. I remember back in 2008 when AGW-skeptics said there had been a decade of global cooling [ideonexus.com] by using 1998, the warmest year on record, as their baseline. Then increasingly warmer years eliminated that talking point. Now you are saying it's cooled the past couple of years, so you must be using 2010 as your baseline [wikipedia.org] , which is the current warmest year on record.

If the predicted El Nino manifests this summer and fall, it might make 2015 an unusually warm year. So I guess in 2016 or 2017 I should expect to hear again about how the Earth has actually been cooling the past few years. A more intellectually honest way to look at climate is to observe the decade by decade warming trend [climate.gov] .

Re:I'm more worried about pollution than climate (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47075923)

I'll take the Vostok ice core that lines up nicely with our pitiful 130 years of observations. A cooling is coming, we are nearing the inflection point of a warming period.

http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/reports/UpdateReport.html;jsessionid=6Xh9-SSAxz0j0RJ5oJEh-WO-?report=Colorado&format=SNOTEL+Snowpack+Update+Report

I'm not a republican/fundie/denier, I have a BS and took the calc/chem/physics triad in school. I just am not compelled that this warming is anthropogenic. Given that 1/4 of all CO2 emissions have happened in the last decade with no corresponding acceleration of warming that would be predicted, and even a leveling off, I think models aren't correct.

Wonder how it got there ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073377)

How would all of this end up in Arctic Ice ? And might this help explain the melting of the ice more so than global warming

Re:Wonder how it got there ? (1)

Layzej (1976930) | about 6 months ago | (#47073819)

And might this help explain the melting of the ice more so than global warming

Probably not unless the plastics are dark. If they are dark they will absorb solar energy that would have otherwise been reflected. Black carbon for example can accelerate ice loss: http://climatecrocks.com/2014/... [climatecrocks.com]

The study, in Proceedings to the National Academy of Sciences (Keegan et al. 2014) finds that black carbon from wildfires facilitated widespread Greenland ice sheet surface melting in just two years since the end of the 19th century: 1889 and 2012. They argue convincingly that not just warm temperatures, but the positive feedback with black carbon and surface solar heating can push the surface energy balance into net heating and ice melt. Further, the likelihood for future increases in air temperature and wildfire boosts the probability of high altitude former “dry snow area” surface melting by end of century to every few years, if not even more frequently, they conclude.

Arctic ice loss is occurring much faster than was anticipated by climate models, so it is likely that there are other factors at play.

George Carlin (1)

invid (163714) | about 6 months ago | (#47073559)

Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn’t know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, “Why are we here?”

~George Carlin

Re:George Carlin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073689)

george carlin was a deep thinker. we needed him and didn't deserve him at the same time.

mod dowN (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073587)

megs 0f Ram runs

Shocking: That the scientist was so ignorant (1)

fygment (444210) | about 6 months ago | (#47073687)

Really ... a "scientist" to whom it never occured that the ocean's currents (and winds) might carry the stuff to the Antarctic? The presence of the plastic was the least surprising part of the article. BTW, it's also in the air and likely at high altitude, if anyone cares to look. Don't know that for sure but it would simply make sense. Also, look for it at the very bottom of the ocean; no it didn't sink, it was carried there by currents.

Sensationalism at it's finest... (3, Insightful)

clonehappy (655530) | about 6 months ago | (#47073707)

Wait...as it melts?? It melts every year, then freezes again. It's not like some barrage of plastic that's been sequestered in ice for billions of years is suddenly going to be dumped into the ocean because of the Arctic sea ice "melting", a thinly veiled reference to global warming as if the melting isn't happening every summer. And if it was created in 2012, then gets released, then a little bit freezes in the ice next year...it doesn't sound like this is even a story!

As an aside, what happened to Slashdot? What happened to our ability to critically think in general? Crap like this should never see the light of day on the main page, it's almost as if we're just expected to consume whatever the headline is alluding to, truth be damned, and subsequently have the proper level of outrage as is determined by the +5 comments. What happened to active discourse, agreeing to disagree, and civility even amongst people with different ideologies? Every day, I read more and more comments along the lines of "If you disagree with me, you should be executed." It makes me really, really sad and angry at the same time that we've been effectively reduced to the mental capacity of neanderthals when it comes to our science/religion of choice (and really, what's the difference anymore?)

Re:Sensationalism at it's finest... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073919)

What would be really shocking is to see an environmental headline that isn't "Worse then we previously thought". What could be worse than Michael Mann's runaway hockey-stick of doom? We shouldn't even have ice in the arctic in summer at this point in time according to Mann, Gore and Hansen.

Re:Sensationalism at it's finest... (1)

Megane (129182) | about 6 months ago | (#47074185)

Yes, it would be shocking to see a headline use "then" when it should use "than".

Oh wait, that's not so shocking after all because of our failure of an education system.

Re:Sensationalism at it's finest... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47074517)

What a homo.

Re:Sensationalism at it's finest... (1)

Truth_Quark (219407) | about 6 months ago | (#47074481)

We shouldn't even have ice in the arctic in summer at this point in time according to Mann, Gore and Hansen.

Northern summer sea ice volume has dropped 60% over the past 35 years [washington.edu] .

But I wonder if you have misinterpreted projections of Mann and Hansen.

I notice Mann was an author on a paper [psu.edu] about the Antarctic Ice Sheet, but I can't find the one about the Arctic Ice that your refer to. Do you have a citation?

Re:Sensationalism at it's finest... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47074519)

How did the Vikings settle Greenland? Was it because a once frozen ocean stayed ice free so that they could make regular trips? Tell me about the last 6 years. When you say something like observed conditions, how much of the earths history do those "observed" conditions cover. Do Flora and Fauna records bear out periods warmer and colder than now? Is global warming a theory due to the fact that it has facets that fly against observations?

Re:Sensationalism at it's finest... (1)

Truth_Quark (219407) | about 6 months ago | (#47074907)

How did the Vikings settle Greenland?

By longboat, I believe.

Was it because a once frozen ocean stayed ice free so that they could make regular trips?

I think Eric the Red's exile was the primary factor that set the timing.

Tell me about the last 6 years.

In Greenland? It's been losing Ice Sheet Mass, because of increased glacial flow outstripping increased precipitation. Recent findings suggest that the ice sheet is much more vulnerable to ocean warming that previously thought [nature.com] .

When you say something like observed conditions, how much of the earths history do those "observed" conditions cover.

It depends on context. Can you point out which time I said "something like observed conditions" that you are referring to? Sometimes observations of ice go back nearly a million years, by ice core histories. Some Ice observations go back to 1978, the satellite histories.

Do Flora and Fauna records bear out periods warmer and colder than now?

Certainly colder. Warmer is uncertain globally within the past couple or few million years. Central Greenland regionally has probably been warming in the past few hundred years, judging from Ice cores.

Is global warming a theory due to the fact that it has facets that fly against observations?

No. Global warming is what happens when you warm the globe. It's not a theory. The relevant theories are probably optics and thermodynamics. There are no observations that suggest the globe isn't currently warming. Energy imbalance at the top of the atmosphere measurements, and sea level measurements are probably the most irrefutable signs that the globe is warming, as a globe. But surface temperature measurements are also strongly indicative.

Re:Sensationalism at it's finest... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47075507)

How did the Vikings settle Greenland?

By longboat, I believe.

Hilarious.

Was it because a once frozen ocean stayed ice free so that they could make regular trips?

I think Eric the Red's exile was the primary factor that set the timing.

That's disingenuous. The colonies failed once the ocean froze over again.

Tell me about the last 6 years.

In Greenland? It's been losing Ice Sheet Mass, because of increased glacial flow outstripping increased precipitation. Recent findings suggest that the ice sheet is much more vulnerable to ocean warming that previously thought [nature.com] .

When you say something like observed conditions, how much of the earths history do those "observed" conditions cover.

It depends on context. Can you point out which time I said "something like observed conditions" that you are referring to? Sometimes observations of ice go back nearly a million years, by ice core histories. Some Ice observations go back to 1978, the satellite histories.

I didn't say you did, was waiting for it. Our recent observations amount to jack in the long history of the earth. The Vostok ice core, which actually does a good job of matching up with observed conditions means more to me than 30 years of satellite images.

Do Flora and Fauna records bear out periods warmer and colder than now?

Certainly colder. Warmer is uncertain globally within the past couple or few million years. Central Greenland regionally has probably been warming in the past few hundred years, judging from Ice cores.

Warmer too, for instance forests growing faster in northern climes in the past and plant life that can't grow there right now existing in the past.

Is global warming a theory due to the fact that it has facets that fly against observations?

No. Global warming is what happens when you warm the globe. It's not a theory.

Anthropogenic Global Warming is a theory.

Re:Sensationalism at it's finest... (1)

Layzej (1976930) | about 6 months ago | (#47076227)

Is global warming a theory due to the fact that it has facets that fly against observations?

I think you have the definition of theory exactly wrong. "A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that is acquired through the scientific method, and repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation." - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S... [wikipedia.org]

Anthropogenic Global Warming is a theory.

Yes. Yes it is.

Re:Sensationalism at it's finest... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47076429)

Wikipedia??? Turn in your card! What do you think the difference between theory and fact are?

Re:Sensationalism at it's finest... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47074607)

Crap like this shouldn't be on the front page because you disagree with it. Nice argument.

Re:Sensationalism at it's finest... (2)

Truth_Quark (219407) | about 6 months ago | (#47074635)

Wait...as it melts?? It melts every year, then freezes again. It's not like some barrage of plastic that's been sequestered in ice for billions of years is suddenly going to be dumped into the ocean because of the Arctic sea ice "melting", a thinly veiled reference to global warming as if the melting isn't happening every summer. And if it was created in 2012, then gets released, then a little bit freezes in the ice next year...it doesn't sound like this is even a story!

The loss of the Northern Summer Sea Ice will change ocean dynamics. The released plastic could make its way to other oceans.

Re:Sensationalism at it's finest... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47074831)

As an aside, what happened to Slashdot?

Slashdot has been like this for a very long time. Sensational headlines that are outright false. Blurbs full of bias and exaggeration. Sadly, the comments are going down hill and they were the real reason to come here.

mislabeled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47073865)

Why do they say "humans" when they mean MANUFACTURERS ?

I didn't make the plastic that is being found. Neither did anyone else visiting this website. We need to find the company who is making this plastic and fine them a couple trillion dollars.

Re:mislabeled (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47075035)

CONSUMERS you mean? they drive the demand and they vote in the laws that allow this to happen. (this being a global issue, the voting part ofcourse depends on the local laws)

Replace 'plastic' with 'anyword you want' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47074767)

So? You can replace the word 'plastic' with any material known to man and the same statement is true. What is your point other than trying to make a false case against humanity and drive more foolish people to waste their time and effort on some dimwitted mission that has no value.

Get a life loser.

moD do3n (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#47076115)

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