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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-176
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-176
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 23 Aug 2019

Submitted as: research article | 23 Aug 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Cryoconite as an efficient monitor for the deposition of radioactive fallout in glacial environments

Giovanni Baccolo1,2, Edyta Łokas3, Paweł Gaca4, Dario Massabò5,6, Roberto Ambrosini7, Roberto S. Azzoni7, Caroline Clason8, Biagio Di Mauro1, Andrea Franzetti1, Massimiliano Nastasi1,9, Michele Prata10, Paolo Prati5,6, Ezio Previtali1,9, Barbara Delmonte1, and Valter Maggi1,2 Giovanni Baccolo et al.
  • 1Environmental and Earth Sciences Department, University of Milano-Bicocca, Milano, 20126, Italy
  • 2INFN section of Milano-Bicocca, Milano, 20126, Italy
  • 3Department of Nuclear Physical Chemistry, Institute of Nuclear Physics Polish Academy of Sciences, Kraków, 31-342, Poland
  • 4Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton, National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, SO14 3ZH, UK
  • 5Physics Department, University of Genoa, Genoa, 16146, Italy
  • 6INFN section of Genoa, Genoa, 16146, Italy
  • 7Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of Milan, Milano, 20133, Italy
  • 8School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, PL48AA, UK
  • 9Physics Department, University of Milano-Bicocca, Milano, 20126, Italy
  • 10Laboratory of Applied Nuclear Energy, University of Pavia, Pavia, 27100, Italy

Abstract. Cryoconite is extremely rich in natural and artificial radionuclides, but a comprehensive discussion about its ability to accumulate radioactivity is lacking. A characterization of cryoconite from two Alpine glaciers is presented and discussed. Results confirm that cryoconite is among the most radioactive environmental matrices, with activity concentrations exceeding 10,000 Bq kg−1 for single radionuclides. Atomic and activity ratios of Pu and Cs radioactive isotopes reveal that the artificial radioactivity of Alpine cryoconite is mostly related to the stratospheric fallout from nuclear weapon tests and to the 1986 Chernobyl accidents. The signature of cryoconite radioactivity is thus influenced by both local and more widespread events. The extreme accumulation of radioactivity in cryoconite can be explained only considering the glacial environment as a whole, and particularly the interaction between ice, meltwater, cryoconite and atmospheric deposition. Cryoconite is an ideal monitor to investigate the deposition and occurrence of natural and artificial radioactive species in glacial environment.

Giovanni Baccolo et al.
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Short summary
Cryoconite is the sediment found on glaciers. The aim of the present paper is to present cryoconite as an environmental matrix able to accumulate and concentrate radioactivity with unprecedented efficiency. A comparison shows that only samples from sites where nuclear accidents and explosions occurred present comparable radioactivity leveles. The peculiarities of glacial environments are resposnbile for this extreme ability and make cryoconite a sponge for radioactivity.
Cryoconite is the sediment found on glaciers. The aim of the present paper is to present...
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