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NNadir

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Gender: Male
Current location: New Jersey
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 25,478

Journal Archives

I'm so embarrassed. My governor endorsed a raging racist to be President of the United States.

The State of New Jersey is, I think, one of the best places in the world to live, but somehow we have a problem electing decent Governors.

Now we have the height of obscenity. Our useless Governor, Chris Christie, a blubbering incompetent buffoon, announced that he supports a freak racist.

I'm so embarrassed.

It's looking very bad these last few weeks at the Mauna Loa carbon dioxide observatory.

At the Mauna Loa carbon dioxide observatory website, they have a data page which compares the averages for each week of the year with the same week of the previous year.

The data goes back to 1974, and comprises 2,090 data points.

I import this data into a spreadsheet I maintain each week, and calculate the weekly increases over the previous year. I rank the data for the increases from worst to best, the worst data point being 4.67 ppm over the previous year, which was recorded during the week ending September 6, 1998, when much of the rain forest of Southeast Asia was burning when fires set to clear the forests for palm oil plantations got out of control during unusually dry weather. Six of the worst data points ever recorded occurred in 1998 during this event, another was recorded in the January following that event.

Of the twenty worst data points ever recorded out of 2090 two of them have occurred in the last four weeks. The week ending January 31, 2016 produced a result of a 4.35 ppm of increase. The week just passed, that ending, 2/14/2016, produced a result of 3.79 ppm increase, tying it for the aforementioned week in January 1999, that ending on January 24, 1999, and that of January 2, 2011.

Of the twenty highest points recorded, 9 have occurred in the last 5 years, 10 in the last 10 years.

The week ending February 7, 2016 was until today's data was published, the 20th of the top 20, it was pushed out and is now the 21st worst.

I also keep a record of the monthly data that is similar to that for the weekly data. This data, unlike the weekly data, goes back to 1958.

November of 2015 was the second worst November ever recorded, 3.08 ppm over the previous November, December of 2015, the worst ever recorded, 3.07 ppm over the previous December, and January of 2016 the 4th worst ever observed, 2.56 ppm over the previous January.

The observatory is still evaluating the final results for 2015; it involves a running average from November through February compared with the data of the previous year. A few weeks ago the preliminary data suggest that 2015 was the worst year ever observed, the data today declares that it is actually a few hundredths of a ppm (a few hundred millionths of a part) behind 1998.

There is no event of which I'm aware comparable to the 1998 fires, and that makes this doubly disturbing to me at least, since it suggests what may be an out of control event such as temperature driven out gassing of sequestered carbon dioxide from permafrost or from oceanic hydrates.

But there's no reason that you should be disturbed as I am. Don't worry, be happy: They're building a solar roadway in France, and even if it ends up covered with grease, skid marks, tire wear marks, sand and salt, it's the thought that counts.

My worry that we are kidding ourselves to the point of suicide by thinking we're actually doing something is pure "Chicken Little," I'm sure.

I now return you to the Hillary vs. Bernie cartoon show.

Enjoy what's left of the weekend.

Nature: Historical Nectar Resources of the British Isles Reflects Their Rise and Fall.

This paper really caught my eye when I was leafing through the current issue of Nature:

Historical nectar assessment reveals the fall and rise of floral resources in Britain (Nature 530, 85–88 (04 February 2016))

An excerpt of the opening lines from from the text:

There is considerable concern over declines in insect pollinator communities and potential impacts on the pollination of crops and wildflowers1, 2, 3, 4. Among the multiple pressures facing pollinators2, 3, 4, decreasing floral resources due to habitat loss and degradation has been suggested as a key contributing factor2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. However, a lack of quantitative data has hampered testing for historical changes in floral resources. Here we show that overall floral rewards can be estimated at a national scale by combining vegetation surveys and direct nectar measurements. We find evidence for substantial losses in nectar resources in England and Wales between the 1930s and 1970s; however, total nectar provision in Great Britain as a whole had stabilized by 1978, and increased from 1998 to 2007. These findings concur with trends in pollinator diversity, which declined in the mid-twentieth century9 but stabilized more recently10. The diversity of nectar sources declined from 1978 to 1990 and thereafter in some habitats, with four plant species accounting for over 50% of national nectar provision in 2007. Calcareous grassland, broadleaved woodland and neutral grassland are the habitats that produce the greatest amount of nectar per unit area from the most diverse sources, whereas arable land is the poorest with respect to amount of nectar per unit area and diversity of nectar sources...


A graphic included therein:



Another graphic showing the mass of sugars available to pollinators throughout the British Isles:



The closing text:

Our findings provide new evidence based on floral resources to support habitat conservation and restoration. First, we provide evidence of the high nectar value of calcareous grassland for pollinating insects. Calcareous grassland area has declined drastically in Great Britain, and only a small fraction of the historical national cover remained by 2007 (refs 13, 14). Second, the low availability and diversity of nectar sources in arable habitats highlights the need to provide supplementary resources to support pollination services in farmlands, especially as the use of insect-pollinated crops has increased nationally24 and globally25. The conservation and restoration of broadleaf woodland and neutral grassland as components of the farmland matrix could help to support diverse flower-visiting insect communities in arable land. The contrast in nectar productivity between linear features and the surrounding vegetation is particularly high in arable land, suggesting that linear features, especially hedgerows, provide an efficient means to enhance floral resources in farmlands if they are managed appropriately to allow flowering26. While agri-environment options such as nectar flower mixtures can also enhance the supply of floral resources locally, their contribution to nectar provision nationally remains low. The higher profile given to floral resource provision in the revised Countryside Stewardship guidelines for England16 may substantially enhance resources in future. Finally, our results indicate that improved grassland has the potential to contribute massively to the nectar available nationally. Small adjustments to the management cycle in improved grasslands, allowing white clover, the dominant resource species, to flower, would help realize this potential, although its utility might be restricted to a limited number of pollinator species (Extended Data Table 2). Together, our results on the nectar values of the commonest British plants and the historical changes in plant communities provide the evidence base needed to understand recent national changes in nectar provision and identify the management options needed to restore national nectar supplies.


This was quite an interesting perspective about which we don't think, at least about which I haven't thought. It demonstrates the importance of diversity in both species and habitats, and the important inter-dependency of the our commercial agricultural land on what surrounds it.

In New Jersey we often see bumper stickers (issued by our State agricultural department) that read "No farms, no food."

One may extend this to: "No pollinators, no food."

This speaks to efforts in some midwestern states in the US to make grassland parks, and points, one thinks to the economic as well as the aesthetic value of doing so.

Enjoy the weekend.

December 2015 is recorded as the worst ever for carbon dioxide increases over the previous...

...December at the Mauna Loa carbon dioxide observatory.

A text file for monthly mean data, recorded since 1958 at the Mauna Loa, is found here: Mauna Loa Data Page (Monthly Data).

As each month is posted, I load it into an Excel file I've built for calculation and ranking of the data. The increase of 3.07 ppm as recorded for December 2015 over December 2014, is the largest in 55 years of such observations.

November of 2015 was the second worst ever observed, 3.03 ppm increased CO[sub]2[/sub] as compared to November of 2014.

We did better in January. January of 2016 was "only" the fourth worst January ever observed.

Whatever we think we are doing to address this situation is clearly not working, and inasmuch as the majority of such feeble attempts we make: Trillions of dollars "invested" in so called "renewable energy" over the last ten years - so called "renewable energy" by the way is not sustainable in any way because of its extremely low energy to mass density (there aren't enough materials on the planet to dig up to manufacture meaningful amounts of that rickety stuff) - switching from coal to gas, and imagining that we are "conserving" energy and "becoming more efficient".

Experiment trumps theory, 100% of the time.

One may wish to kill the messenger, but the messenger is not really me, nor the scientists at Mauna Loa and elsewhere, it's the clear chemical signature registered in the composition of the atmosphere. And let's be clear that messenger is being killed.

Enjoy the weekend.

Statistical methods for the eternal monitoring of carbon dioxide waste dumps.

Right now the world's largest, pretty much to the exclusion of all others, carbon dioxide dump is the planetary atmosphere. The failure to address climate change by humanity is obviated that the increase in planetary carbon dioxide concentrations in this dump, according to preliminary figures at the Mauna Loa carbon dioxide observatory, for the first time exceeded 3 ppm in a single year, setting an all time record.

Obviously all strategies to address the issue have failed miserably. We are now drilling more gas, more oil, and mining more coal than ever before, and basically the politically popular strategies for addressing the issue have all failed miserably.

One often discussed approach to dealing with the dangerous fossil fuel waste carbon dioxide is to "sequester" it in abandoned oil and gas fields after all of the dangerous fossil fuels in them have been mined and burned. Each year the amount of carbon dioxide dumped into the atmosphere is more than 30 billion tons; in 2012, according to the table on page 93 of the 2014 World Energy Outlook report, the world emissions were 31.6 billion tons. Undoubtedly the figures for 2013, 2014, and 2015 were significantly worse.

Twelve years ago, an overly optimistic and much discussed paper about "stabilization wedges" was published by two Princeton University faculty members, the famous Pacala and Socolow paper. (Science 13 Aug 2004: Vol. 305, Issue 5686, pp. 968-972)

One may note that many of the "suggestions" in this paper describing technologies that were allegedly "already available" in 2004 are extremely dubious, for two obvious examples being substituting wind energy and solar energy for coal; coal plants have capacity utilization factors of approximately 70 to 80 percent, whereas wind plants are lucky to approach 40% and solar facilities 20%, and I'm probably being overly generous with both of these figures. If one shuts a coal plant down for the four hours when lots of solar energy is available near the summer equinox for example, one will be required to waste huge amounts of energy since coal boilers are not perfectly thermally isolated, and extra energy will be required to return the boilers to operational levels, much as a kettle on a stove requires significant heat before the water boils.

(Solar and wind energy are therefore useless as alternatives to coal; and in fact, they are completely dependent on dangerous natural gas to exist at all, with all the fracking and other risks gas dependency requires.)

One of the "stabilization wedges" discussed was carbon dioxide capture and sequestration sites designed to collect and store dangerous fossil fuel waste when, um, the wind wasn't blowing and the sun wasn't shining. In Pacala and Socolow's paper, in table 1 on page 970 this is described as "building 3500 Sleipners."

A "Sleipner" in case one doesn't know, refers to a program proposed by the Norwegian dangerous fossil fuel company Statoil to put lipstick on its offshore oil and gas drilling pig by injecting carbon dioxide into the Sleipner oil field for "sequestration" which Statoil liked to imply was "eternal sequestration." After much hulaboo, the Sleipner program was abandoned on the grounds that it was, um, "too expensive" compared to dumping carbon dioxide waste directly into the existing and "economic" dump, the planetary atmosphere.

The number of "Sleipners" built since 2004 is uncomfortably close to zero; nearly one hundred percent of all carbon dioxide injected into oil and gas fields today is designed for "EOR," the euphemistically named "enhanced oil recovery" scheme, where the plan is to drive even more dangerous fossil fuels out of the ground so the waste can be dumped in the atmosphere.

But one may ask: Suppose that there really were significant carbon dioxide waste dumps built on the scale that Socolow and Pacala suggested were "already available" in 2004, what then?

A recent paper in the scientific journal Environmental Science and Technology discusses some of the issues that are grotesquely ignored in what I regard as this "sweep it under the rug and let future generations worry about it" scheme: The possibility that these dumps for containing a dangerous gas might, um, leak.

The paper is here: Environ. Sci. Technol., 2015, 49 (2), pp 1215–1224

The title is: Quantifying the Benefit of Wellbore Leakage Potential Estimates for Prioritizing Long-Term MVA Well Sampling at a CO[sub]2[/sub] Storage Site.

Here's some of the introductory text from the paper:

In an effort to mitigate concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2)in the atmosphere that are caused by stationary anthropogenic inputs, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) is pursuing carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) as one approach in a portfolio of greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction strategies. CCS involves (1) separating CO2 from an industrial process, (2) transporting the CO2 to a storage location, and (3)injecting and sequestering the CO2 in a geologic reservoir furlong-term isolation from the atmosphere.1 Through the Carbon Sequestration Program, the DOE is working with seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships (RCSPs) to identify feasible sites within the U.S. and portions of Canada for large-scale (i.e., one million tons of CO2 or greater) CO2geologic sequestration.2 The DOE is pursuing three primary types of geologic systems for long-term CO2 storage: (1)depleted oil and gas fields; (2) unconventional formations such as gas shales, coal seams, and basalts; and (3) salineformations.3

One of the potential risks associated with the injection and long-term storage of CO2 into geologic reservoirs is leakage of stored CO2 from geologic containment and into the near surface or surface environment. A potential leakage pathway in depleted oil and gas fields is associated with legacy exploration and production wells.4−6 These legacy wells provide a potential conduit through low-permeability cap rock formations that would otherwise act as a seal to retain CO2 in the storage reservoir. Extensive work has been conducted in Alberta, Canada over the past decade to assess the potential CO2leakage risk of legacy wells by drawing inferences from well completion and abandonment information. This work has, in part, been performed as part of the DOE Regional PartnershipPlains CO2 Reduction (PCOR) Partnership...


The paper then explores the "statistical power" of sampling a subset of drilled wells to determine the probability that more are leaking.

...A well leakage potential scoring approach like the one developed by Watson and Bachu8 provides a quantitative means for ranking the increased probability of CO2 leakage at specific well because of SCVF and/or GM. Applying this scoring methodology to the legacy wells that are located within particular region provides a screening-level risk assessment approach for identifying potential geologic CO2 storage sitesareas with a high incidence of high-ranking wells would represent locations that are not favorable to long-term geologic storage of CO2, while areas with a low incidence of highrankingwells may be suitable future CO2 injection and storage.In addition, once a geologic CO2 storage site has beenidentified, then such a well ranking approach also informs themonitoring, verification, and accounting (MVA) sampling planfor the site, as higher-ranking wells would take priority overlower-ranking wells...


There's no mention at all of what it might cost future generations to monitor these dumps for...um, um, um...eternity, but if that bothers you, don't worry, be happy: You can be reasonably assured that these dumps, not twenty "Sleipners" never mind 3500 of them, will not be built. It's far more convenient and, um, "economic" to use the "traditional" dump, the planetary atmosphere.

Enjoy the remainder of your Sunday.

Nature Editorial Comment: India needs home-grown GM food to stop starvation.

The following text is excerpted from a "World View" comment in Nature, one of the world's highest impact scientific journals:

At the beginning of this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a road map to guide India’s science and technology over the next two decades. Launched during the Indian Science Congress at the University of Mysore, the plan signalled a cautious approach to techniques such as genetically modified (GM) crops, noting that “some aspects of biotechnology have posed serious legal and ethical problems in recent years”. That is true, but a different and much larger problem looms for India. According to the 2015 United Nations World Population Prospects report, India will surpass China by early next decade as the most populous country on Earth, with the most mouths to feed. India is already classed as having a ‘serious’ hunger problem, according to the 2015 Global Hunger Index of the International Food Policy Research Institute. There is a danger that many of these new Indians will not have sufficient food.

Where can additional food come from? Grain production is stagnant, and rapid urbanization is reducing available land. To increase food production, India needs to invest in modern agricultural methods, including GM crops.

Indian researchers have shown that they have the expertise to generate GM plants, most obviously the pest-resistant cotton that is now widely grown in India. But almost all of this work has relied on molecular-biology research done elsewhere...

...India should stop trying to build the Taj Mahal with borrowed bricks. We need a concerted effort at home to discover and manipulate relevant genes in indigenous organisms and crops (such as chickpea and rice). Indian microbial institutes should take up projects in this direction, because most of the currently used genes for transgenic generation are of microbial origin. That requires a change in direction from an Indian GM-food strategy that has traditionally aimed at quick product development instead of careful assessment of the underlying science.

“Some GM crops designed abroad need more water than is usually available in some parts of India.”
Such home-grown GM crops would also reduce reliance on transgenic technology produced by multinational companies, which is expensive and rarely optimized for the conditions of specific regions. Some GM crops designed abroad need more water than is usually available in some parts of India, for example, putting great stress on farmers....


Full text (which may or may not be behind a firewall) is here: Nature 529, 439 (28 January 2016)

Enjoy the weekend!

The "Extreme Learning Machine."

I'm most definitely snowed in today, and am leafing through some issues of one of my favorite journals, Industrial Engineering and Chemistry Research and I came across a cool paper about one of my favorite topics, ionic liquids, that discusses the "Extreme Learning Machine."

Ionic liquids are generally salts of cationic and anionic organic molecules which are liquids at or near room temperature. Because they are generally not volatile, they can eliminate some of the problems associated with other process solvents, specifically air pollution. Although the term "green solvent" is probably over utilized with respect to ionic liquids, their very interesting potential uses have lead to a vast explosion of papers in the scientific literature concerning them. There are, to be sure, almost an infinite number of possible ionic liquids (and related liquids called "deep eutectics".)

My own interest in these compounds is connected with my interest in the separation of fission products and actinides in the reprocessing of used nuclear fuels, as well as an interest in their potential for the treatment of certain biological products, including lignins, a constituent of biomass that is quite different from cellulose, representing a sustainable route of access to aromatic molecules, as well as their possible use as radiation resistant (in some cases) high temperature heat transfer fluids.

Anyway, about the "deep learning machine:" The paper in question, written by scientists at Beijing Key Laboratory of Ionic Liquids Clean Process, State Key Laboratory of Multiphase Complex Systems, Institute of Process Engineering, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, China, that I've been reading is this one: Ind. Eng. Chem. Res., 2015, 54 (51), pp 12987–12992

The S[sub]σ‑profile[/sub] is a quantum mechanical factor describing the charge distribution of the surfaces of molecules and organic ions.

Here's the fascinating text:

As compared to the ANN algorithm, the extreme learning machine (ELM) is a relatively new algorithm which was first developed by Huang et al.[sup]23,24[/sup] It can effectively tend to reach a global optimum and only needs to learn a few parameters between the hidden layer and the output layer as compared with the traditional ANN and thus can beused to predict properties because of its excellent efficiency and generalization performance.[sup]25[/sup] However, to the best of our knowledge, the ELM has not yet been used for predicting the properties of ILs until now. Thus, we employed this relatively new ELM algorithm to predict the heat capacity of ILs in this work.


Reference 24 is" Huang, G.-B.; Zhu, Q.-Y.; Siew, C.-K. Extreme learning machine: Theory and applications. Neurocomputing 2006, 70, 489−501.

Hmm...the program needs to "learn" only a few parameters...

I always keep in the back of my mind Penrose's criticism of the concept of "artificial intelligence" (maybe because being a human being, I still want my species to be relevant) but I'm intrigued. Neurocomputing is a journal I've never accessed before, but when I can get out of here after this blizzard, I'm going to take a look at that paper which is apparently available at Princeton University's library.

I guess I'm a dork, but I find it all kind of cool...

2015 comes in as the worst year ever observed at the Mauna Loa CO2 observatory.

Data trumps theory, 100% of the time, always.

For decades, we have heard all kinds of stuff about how we would address climate change. We are not addressing it.

The preliminary data for 2015 is now in at Mauna Loa and it's telling. We have many people here who can only understand things when presented as a graphic, and here it is:



The preliminary data shows the increase in 2015 to be the first to exceed 3.00 ppm in a single year: 3.17 ppm

Before 2015, the worst year ever observed was 1998, at 2.93 ppm, a year that had an unusual event inasmuch as much of the Southeast Asian forest burned when fires set to clear land for "renewable energy" palm oil plantations (for German biodiesel) went out of control.

As for so called "renewable energy" which has been hyped to a point nearing insanity for roughly half a century, nothing, absolutely nothing draws out its grotesque failure than this data. I repeat my long standing statement that it is not actually renewable, inasmuch as it requires, owing to its low energy to mass ratio, the massive mining and refining of metals and other materials, many of which are highly toxic.

The last, best hope for humanity was one that has traditionally be the subject of much malign fear and ignorance from some of us on the left, nuclear energy. (It remains the only source of primary energy to have avoided 60 billion tons of the dumping of dangerous fossil fuel waste into the planetary atmosphere, equivalent to about two years worth of said dumping.) It remains the world's largest, by far, source of climate change gas free energy, but it is only expanding at a trivial rate, with eight reactors having been shut in the worst CO[sub]2[/sub] year ever observed, and only 10 new reactors having come on line in that same year.

World Starts Up 10, Shuts Down 8 nuclear reactors in 2015

We deserve what we are getting. Fear and ignorance, so dire in human history has triumphed again. I would like to congratulate all of the anti-nukes here and elsewhere on their grand victory, even as I am prone to weep at what their "victory" means for the future of humanity and the world.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend.



Proserpine.



1874, Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1882) English.

At the Tate Museum, London.

Observing the Environment Degrades It: Antarctic Research Stations and Persistent Organic...

...Pollutants.

I spent the day off leafing electronically through some back issues of one of my favorite journals, Environmental Science and Technology and came across an interesting paper that caught my eye concerning leaching of certain halogenated persistent organic pollutants from the McMurdo and Scott Research Stations in Antarctica.

A link to the article is here:

An Antarctic Research Station as a Source of Brominated and Perfluorinated Persistent Organic Pollutants to the Local Environment (Environ. Sci. Technol., 2015, 49 (1), pp 103–112)

A great deal has been written in the scientific literature in recent years about these classes of compounds, and no blog post could do the subject any justice, but the paper gives a nice brief overview of the issues for anyone unfamiliar with the risks these now ubiquitously distributed compounds entail. Quoting from the text:

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are typically anthropogenic chemicals and ubiquitous global contaminants. They share properties of persistence, toxicity, bioaccumulation potential and propensity for long-range environmental transport (LRET).1−3 As such, POPs are recognized as posing a threat to environmental and human health and are subject to the Stockholm Convention on POPs that aims to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, these compounds from the environment...

...Human activity in Polar regions, particularly the Antarctic, is undergoing rapid changes and is dramatically increasing.6,7 Easier access to both North and South Polar regions has resulted in enhanced research activity, as well as increasing tourism and marine resource exploration and extraction. Most Antarctic research bases are located in ice-free areas close to the coastline.8 These areas are also of great ecological significance. Because of this, and the fact that background POPs levels are generally relatively low, any consequent local contamination can have a disproportionately large effect on biota. Research bases have already been shown to be sources of PAHs and heavy metals along with Legacy POPs, such as PCBs.9−12...

...Alongside the increasing scale of human activity in Polar regions, the list of industrial and consumer chemicals that satisfy the classification criteria of a POP continues to grow. These factors result in an increased potential for POPs to be directly introduced to the local environment as fresh emissions from consumer products, including electronic equipment, textiles and furnishings, many of which contain POPs recently annexed under the Stockholm Convention. For example perfluorooctanesulfonic acid and its salts together with perfluorooctane sulfonyl fluoride have been added to Annex B (Restriction) and the penta- and octa-commercial mixtures of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) to Annex A (Elimination).

These fluorinated and brominated compounds have different physicochemical properties and hence different industrial and commercial uses. Perfluoroalkyl acids for example are generally manufactured as their salts15 such as perfluorooctanoate (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonate (PFOS) that are amphiphilic with low volatility. Such compounds have been extensively used as waterproofing or wetting agents, in many nonstick or polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon) containing products as well as in fire-fighting foam.15 They may also be formed in situ from degradation of volatile precursors such as fluorotelomer alcohols (FTOHs).16 FTOHs are used extensively as intermediates in the manufacture of poly- and perfluoroalkylated substances (PFASs), have been identified
as residual compounds in consumer products such as stain repellents and other surfactants, and are known to have their own detrimental environmental and health effects.17,18 PBDEs on the other hand are hydrophobic and commonly found in fire retardant mixtures as well as building materials, electronics and textiles.19

The potential for PBDEs to be released from remote polar research stations, due to the relatively high density of electronic equipment and increased fire prevention concerns at these locations, has been recognized.20 PBDEs21−24 and PFASs such as PFOS25,26 may be released from consumer products as these products wear and degrade. Their contrasting physicochemical properties will influence subsequent distribution. As they are persistent they can accumulate in organisms with detrimental effects, including hepato-, immune-, and ontogenetic toxicity.
25−27


Dusts within the research station, as well as surrounding soil and some organisms such as lichen, as well as wastewater discharged from the stations, were analyzed via LC/MS/MS for representative species in these classes of compounds, and the results were quite disturbing. The lower limits of quantitation (LLOQ's) for these compounds was relatively modest given the capabilities of modern mass spectrometers, the low nanogram per gram range - modern instrumentation can detect picograms per gram of many compounds of physiological import in various matrices - but in almost every case not much sensitivity was required. At McMudro, indoor dust was found to have 9,560 ng/g as a sum of the various polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardants.

This concentration is almost 4 orders of magnitude found in the hair of Chinese electronic waste recycling workers (See Science of The Total Environment Volume 397, Issues 1–3, 1 July 2008, Pages 46–57) where the distribution of these compounds is of high concern and thought to be carcinogenic, as well as neurotoxic.

This is, um, disturbing.

(For a description of possible mechanisms by which PDBE's act as carcinogens, toxins, and mutagens, see New Evidence for Toxicity of Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers: DNA Adduct Formation from Quinone Metabolites (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2011, 45, 10720–10727))

Graphs in the original paper cited here show the gradients in soil sample concentrations of these compounds with increasing distance from the research stations.

The main sink - a very slow sink - for these compound classes is in fact, radiation, typically UV radiation or higher energy radiation such as x-rays and gamma rays. For the deliberate destruction of these molecules with lower energy ionizing radiation, UV, often catalytic amounts of titanium dioxide either pure or doped are employed, but this catalyst is undoubtedly not distributed over the antarctic surface.

Because of the still prevalent ozone hole in Antarctica - 2011 was an unprecedented year (See Nature 478, 469–475 (27 October 2011)) - we may expect a slightly higher rate of degradation, although the most prominent PBDE is PBDE-209, which during its degradation can form any of the other, potentially even more toxic PBDE's as degradants. This is small comfort.

It is notable that the stations in Antarctica are sources of many other questionable organic compounds, notably PCHs, polycyclic hydrocarbons, from leaks of dangerous fossil fuels transported to the stations.

One of the most famous laws in science, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle is a statement overall that attempts to view the state of something, in the case of the principle sub-atomic particles like electrons, changes it. This law surprisingly has a macroscopic correlation in environmental science.
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