The Arctic - pristine natural wilderness, unmolested by human touch? Not really. While early explorers claimed they could see 200 KM mountain peaks that certainly isn't the case today. In winter months, the Arctic actually has some of the dirtiest air in the world. It turns out even those early explorers may have been romanticizing the cleanliness a bit.
Scientists know that air pollution particles from mid-latitude cities migrate to the Arctic and form an ugly haze, but a new University of Utah study finds surprising evidence that polar explorers saw the same phenomenon as early as 1870.
“The reaction from some colleagues – when we first mentioned that people had seen haze in the late 1800s – was that it was crazy,” says Tim Garrett, assistant professor of meteorology and senior author of the study. “Who would have thought the Arctic could be so polluted back then? Our instinctive reaction is to believe the world was a cleaner place 130 years ago.”
Arctic haze. The most visible sign of Arctic pollution was documented over a century ago by both explorers and natives. Source: unknown. Credit: Columbia university