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Media opportunity: Microplastics scooped up from the ocean and transported through the atmosphere to a rural area in Newfoundland during hurricane Larry: international research study

Posted by Communications and Marketing on November 28, 2023 in News

Researchers studying the movement of microplastics have found that the tiny bits of plastic waste were scooped up from the Atlantic Ocean as hurricane Larry stormed northward and deposited as atmospheric fallout in Newfoundland.

Meteorological events have been proven to pick up and carry particulate matter, but little is known about how they influence the transport and deposition of airborne microplastics.

Scientists at Dalhousie University, and at institutes in the UK and the United States, collected air samples before, during and after the passage of the system over Newfoundland, where it made landfall as a category 1 hurricane on Sept. 11, 2021.

Microplastics were found in all samples, with those collected during the height of the storm showing the highest concentration of particles. There was a marked decline in microplastic counts in samples taken after the storm had passed through the rural area of the province.

The team, including MSc student Anna Ryan, Ocean Frontier Institute researcher Steve Allen, and professors Vittorio Maselli and Tony Walker of Dalhousie University, combined laboratory analysis with numerical modeling simulations done in collaboration with Dr. Mark Cohen of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to determine that the microplastics may have come from the ocean as the hurricane passed over the garbage patch of the North Atlantic Gyre, a current that flows in a circular motion along the east coast of North America.

Ryan is available to discuss the findings, published today in the journal Communications Earth & Environment, and how hurricanes could act as highways capable of transporting microplastics faster than ocean currents to areas that may not receive regular microplastic deposits from other sources.


Media contact:

Alison Auld  
Senior Research Reporter  
Communications, Marketing and Creative Services  
Dalhousie University  
Cell: 1-902-220-0491  


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