Lena river Delta by Landsat 7’s Enhanced Thematic Mapper plus

Mercury, a toxic element, is accumulated in the Arctic Ocean by the flow of circumpolar rivers and atmospheric forces, according to Environmental scientists at Harvar. They find out that the mercury that actually comes from the rivers, is twice as much that from the atmospheric source.  Above the Lena River delta. Image courtesy of NASA

The Lena River, some 2,800 miles (4,400 km) long, is one of the largest rivers in the world. The Lena Delta Reserve is the most extensive protected wilderness area in Russia. It is an important refuge and breeding ground for many species of Siberian wildlife. This is a false-color composite image acquired by Landsat 7’s Enhanced Thematic Mapper plus (ETM+) sensor.

The scientists predict that concentrations of the toxic element may further increase as climate change continues.

“The Arctic is a unique environment because it’s so remote from most anthropogenic (human-influenced) sources of mercury, yet we know that the concentrations of mercury in Arctic marine mammals are among the highest in the world,” says lead author Jenny A. Fisher, a postdoctoral fellow in Harvard’s Atmospheric Chemistry Modeling Group and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences (EPS). “This is dangerous to both marine life and humans. The question from a scientific standpoint is, where does that mercury come from?”

Lena river map

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via earthobservatory