Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Mercury Concentrations in Yukon River Fish Could Surpass EPA Criterion by 2050

The concentration of mercury in fish in Alaska’s Yukon River may exceed EPA mercury criterion by 2050 if greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming are not constrained, according to new scientific research led by the National Snow and Ice Data Center’s (NSIDC) Kevin Schaefer. This first of its kind research estimates potential releases of mercury from thawing permafrost in high and low emissions scenarios. The researchers predicts that by 2200, the mercury emitted into the atmosphere annually by thawing permafrost could compare with current global anthropogenic emissions under a high emissions scenario. Their results were published on September 16 in Nature Communications

“If we can hit the Paris Accord target, we expect minimal impacts to mercury concentrations in fish and water. If we continue with unconstrained emissions, however, it is likely that we will see large increases in mercury concentrations,” said Schaefer. Emissions of these magnitudes could have a global impact.  “What happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. The mercury emissions from thawing permafrost could persist for centuries, impacting the environment both locally and globally.”

This story was written by NSIDC Communications. To continue reading the press release click here.

CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and CU Boulder.

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