Importance of seasonal sea ice in the western Arctic ocean to the Arctic and global microplastic budgets

J Hazard Mater. 2021 Sep 15;418:125971. doi: 10.1016/j.jhazmat.2021.125971. Epub 2021 May 8.


Arctic sea ice entraps microplastics (MP) from seawater and atmosphere and is recognized as sink and transport vector of MPs. However, ice-trapped fraction in the global MP budget, contribution of atmospheric input, and linkage among Arctic basins remain unclear. To assess them, we investigated the number- and mass-based data separated by size and shape geometry for MPs in sea ice, snow, and melt pond water from the western Arctic Ocean (WAO). A significant dependency of MP data on measured cutoff size and geometry was found. For the same size range and geometry, sea ice MPs in WAO ((11.4 ± 9.12) × 103 N m-3 for ≥ 100 µm) were within comparable levels with those in other Arctic basins, but showed closer similarity in polymer and shape compositions between WAO and Arctic Central Basin, indicating the strong linkage of the two basins by the Transpolar Drift. Our budgeting shows that a significant amount of plastic particles ((3.4 ± 2.6) × 1016 N; 280 ± 701 kilotons), which are missed from the global inventory, is trapped in WAO seasonal sea ice, with < 1% snowfall contribution. Our findings highlight that WAO ice zone may play a role as a sink of global MPs as well as a source of Arctic MPs.

Keywords: Ice-trapping; Mass budget; Melt pond water; Microplastics; Seasonal sea ice; Snow; Western Arctic ocean.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arctic Regions
  • Ice Cover*
  • Microplastics*
  • Oceans and Seas
  • Plastics
  • Seasons


  • Microplastics
  • Plastics