28 May 2021

28 May 2021

Review status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Hyper-accumulation of legacy fallout radionuclides in cryoconite on Isfallsglaciären (Arctic Sweden) and their downstream distribution

Caroline C. Clason1, Will H. Blake1, Nick Selmes2, Alex Taylor1, Pascal Boeckx3, Jessica Kitch1, Stephanie C. Mills4, Giovanni Baccolo5, and Geoffrey E. Millward1 Caroline C. Clason et al.
  • 1School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, UK
  • 2Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Plymouth, PL1 3DH, UK
  • 3Isotope Bioscience Laboratory – ISOFYS, Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
  • 4School of Earth, Atmospheric and Life Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia
  • 5Department of Environmental and Earth Sciences, University Milano-Bicocca, Milano, Italy

Abstract. The release of legacy fallout radionuclides (FRNs) in response to glacier retreat is a process that has received relatively little attention to date, yet may have important consequences as a source of secondary contamination as glaciers melt and down-waste in response to a warming climate. The prevalence of FRNs in glacier-fed catchments is poorly understood in comparison to other contaminants, yet there is now emerging evidence from multiple regions of the global cryosphere for substantially augmented FRN activities in cryoconite. Here we report concentrated FRNs in both cryoconite and proglacial sediments from the Isfallsglaciären catchment in Arctic Sweden. Activities of some FRNs in cryoconite are two orders of magnitude above those found elsewhere in the catchment, and above the activities found in other environmental matrices outside of nuclear exclusion zones. We also describe the presence of the short-lived cosmogenic radionuclide 7Be in cryoconite samples, highlighting the importance of meltwater-sediment interactions in radionuclide accumulation in the ice surface environment. The presence of fallout radionuclides in glaciers may have the potential to impact local environmental quality through both isolated hotspots of radioactivity caused by glacier down-wasting, and downstream transport of contaminants to the proglacial environment through interaction with sediments and meltwater. We thus recommend that future research in this field focusses on processes of accumulation of FRNs and other environmental contaminants in cryoconite, and whether these contaminants are present in quantities harmful for both local and downstream ecosystems.

Caroline C. Clason et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2021-142', Anonymous Referee #1, 09 Jun 2021
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Caroline Clason, 15 Sep 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2021-142', Anonymous Referee #2, 07 Aug 2021
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Caroline Clason, 15 Sep 2021

Caroline C. Clason et al.

Caroline C. Clason et al.


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Latest update: 16 Sep 2021
Short summary
Our paper presents results of sample collection and subsequent geochemical analyses from the glaciated Isfallsglaciären catchment in Arctic Sweden. The data suggest that material found on the surface of glaciers, “cryoconite”, is very efficient at accumulating products of nuclear fallout transported in the atmosphere following events such as the Chernobyl disaster. We investigate how this compares with samples in the downstream environment, and consider potential environmental implications.