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Modelling the impacts of a nitrogen pollution event on the biogeochemistry of an Arctic glacier

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A highly polluted rain event deposited ammonium and nitrate on Midtre Lovénbreen, Svalbard, European High Arctic, during the melt season in June 1999. Quasi-daily sampling of glacial runoff showed elevated ion concentrations of both ammonium (NH4 +) and nitrate (NO3 ), collectively dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) in the two supraglacial meltwater flows, but only elevated NO3 in the subglacial outburst. Time-series analysis and flow-chemistry modelling showed that supra- and subglacial assimilation of NH4 + were major impacts of this deposition event. Supraglacial assimilation likely occurred while the pollution-event DIN resided within a/the supraglacial slush layer (estimated DIN half-life 40–50 hours, with the lifetime of NO3 exceeding that of NH4 + by 30%). Potentially, such processes could affect preservation of DIN in melt-influenced ice cores. Subglacial routing of event DIN and its multi-day storage beneath the glacier also enabled significant assimilation of NH4 + to occur here (60% of input), which may have been either released as particulate N later during the melt season, or stored until the following year. Our results complement existing mass-balance approaches to the study of glacial biogeochemistry, show how modelling can enable time-resolved interpretation of process dynamics within the biologically active melt season, and highlight the importance of episodic polluted precipitation events as DIN inputs to Arctic glacial ecosystems.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2010

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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