Polar pollution

Other Names:
Arctic pollution
Antarctic pollution

A heavy reddish haze is a regular feature of the Arctic in winter and early spring, often reducing visibility to less than 6 miles (about 10 kilometres). A haze so far from the industries and vehicles that pollute the air of major cities seems to require a wholly natural explanation, but evidence has begun to accumulate that a part of the arctic haze may have its origins 6,000 miles (10,000 kilometres) away in the same polluted air that produces acid rain over the USA and Europe. According to a study undertaken in 1976, it would seem that, due to air flow patterns and other factors, the major source of the pollutants in the arctic haze is the former Soviet Union. Europe and the UK are the next largest sources of the pollution. North American countries contribute little because of air flow patterns.

Possible future mining and oil drilling pose the most serious threat to Antarctica. A major oil spillage could take hundreds of years to disperse. Any upset can seriously disturb weather patterns and ocean food supplies. American bases for scientific research have burned combustible waste in open pits with no emission controls, nonburnable waste and toxic chemicals have been dumped at sea.


The pollution extends from Alaska eastward to Norway - about half of the circumference of the polar ice cap - and is suspended from ground level to as high as 25,000 feet from November through April. Norilsk, a Siberian city within the Arctic circle and one of the former Soviet Union's most polluted, supplies up to 7% of the world's nickel, a necessary component in the production of steel. According to a 1992 report, industry in the Norilsk region is responsible for emitting more than 2.3 million tonnes of toxins into the atmosphere every year.

Decrease in ice cover
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 6: Clean Water and SanitationGOAL 13: Climate ActionGOAL 15: Life on Land
Problem Type:
E: Emanations of other problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST