Monchegorsk ecology of beautiful tundra

The appraisal of snow sampling for environmental pollution valuation

Lapland Biospheric Reserve, Zeleny, 8, 184280, Monchegorsk, Russia; Murmansk Regional Laboratory of Archangelsk Forest Institute, 184280, Monchegorsk, Russia
(Received 25 May, 1992; accepted 5 March, 1995)


The snow sampling as well as nickel and copper determination were realized during winter seasons 1987, 88 and 89 years, in Kola Peninsula at area about 4000 km2 affected by industrial emissions of big nickel-copper plant "Severonickel" Smelter Complex situated in latitude 68° N, altitude 31° E. All investigated territory is found contaminated by nickel and copper by the factor 6-1500 times more than the European background, dependently for the distance and direction from the pollution source. The metal accumulation by snowpack is found considerably dependent upon meteorological conditions due to the metal leaching from snow during thaws and winter rains. Accordingly a snow sampling is inapplicable for a pollution monitoring in the subarctic seaside climate, because it may lead to false conclusions. This method may be useful only for reconnaisans, initial valuation of the unknown territory pollution.

Key words: Snow, sampling, applicability, nickel, copper, contamination, valuation.


The sampling and the chemical analysis of snow (below - the snow sampling) is evidently the most old and wide-spread method of environmental pollution valuation in high latitudes (look generalizations - Vasilenko etal.,1985; Glazovsky etal., 1985; Anonymous..., 1988; Kryuchkov and Makarova, 1989). Nordenskiold used this method in Arctic and actively popularized it in the seventies of the last century (Nordenskiold, 1875). However the simplicity and availability often result in exaggeration of the method and uncritical unterpretation of findings. A series of researches (Hornbeck et a/., 1977; Johannessen and Henriksen, 1978; Jeffries and Snyder, 1981; Johannes et al., 1984; Fedoseeva et al, 1986; Ratkin and Tereshchenko, 1988) have shown that indefinite part of accumulated mineral admixtures during a winter is leaching from a snow, moves down and reaches the upper soil layer. Johannessen and Henriksen (1978) have shown that 50-80% of mineral admixtures are released in the first 30% of the meltwater. Cadle and Dash (1984) have found an average of 52% of the ions were released in the first 17% of the snowmelt. The main reasons are the fluctuations of temperature, thaws and winter rains. The mineral admixtures move down upon the snow thickness even in sharply continental cold climate of Jakutia (Anisimova, 1980). Evidently usual snow sampling method, i.e. cutting of snow column by whole depth in the end of winter - gives indefinite but always understated result comparatively of real entrance of admixures in snow.

Water, Air, and Soil Pollution 89: 49-65,1996.
© 1996 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.

The first goal of work was to study the applicability of snow sampling for valuation of environmental pollution by nickel, copper and sulfate-ion in conditions of subarctic maritime climate. The second goal was to receive the reference findings concerning the entrance of these pollutants on the landscape in the zone of emission influence of big metallurgical plant, namely Severonickel Smelter Complex.

2. The Site

The investigated area is situated in Kola Peninsula, 68-69° N latitude and 30-32° E longitude, around the town of Monchegorsk and in the territory of Lapland Biospheric Reserve. In this region the cloak of snow remaines 180 days per year in the mean. A snow thickness in a forest reaches 100-130 cm to the begining of April (Yakovlev, 1961). Thanks closeness of open sea and of the warm Gulf Stream the thaws and winter rains are ordinary occurence. The weather report by investigation period is adduced in Table I. The average annual wind rose is shown in Figure 1, the meridional winds are prevailed. The share of north winds during winter was 5-7% more than in the snowless period. The copper-nickel metallurgical plant Severonickel Smelter Complex is big local source of pollutants, continually working during 45 years. The main emissions in the ambient atmosphere are the sulfur dioxide and nickeli-ferous and copper-bearing dust. During the investigation period emissions were stable (thousands tonnes per annum):

    sulphur dioxide - 220-240
    nickel - 4
    copper - 4

3. Materials and Methods

The snow samples were collected in the end of March or beginning of April, during three winter seasons, namely 1986-87,1987-88 and 1988-89 years. All sampling plots (39 in number, see Figure 1) were in a forest at a height 150-200 m above sea level. The snow was taken from a whole thickness by a special snow sampler, which enables us to collect the samples without the diging of prospect-holes (Sypko and Barcan, 1993). The snow sampler was used firstly just in this work. It was made by the polyethylene pipe of diameter 100 mm, furnished with the special lock on the sharp edge. The sample of 6-10 kg weight was prepared from 4-13 columns in each sampling plot, depending of snow depth. The snow was poured in plastic bags and was kept in the frozen state (in snow pit) up to laboratory treatment. The snow was thawed in big glass funnel, the water flowed down in the lesser funnel having close paper filter. The filtrate flowed down in the glass receiver. After volume measurement the filtrate was steamed to volume 500 ml. Outside inclusions were moved off the sediment by pincers. The filter with sediment was dryed and without weighing was ashing wholly in the muffle by 400-500°C. Nickel and copper contents were determined in filtrate and ash by colorimetric methods - nickel with dymethylglioxym and copper with lead dyethyl carbamate. Sulfate-ion was determined in filtrate by turbidimetric method with barium sulfate. Results were attributed to total area of cross-section of gathered columns and accumulation in g km-2 day-1 was calculated.

Table I
Meteorological conditions. Monchegorsk meteorological service station
Date Air temperature 0С Date of sampling Date of sampling Date of sampling Date of sampling Date of sampling Average maximum Average minimum Absolute maximum
Average monthly Absolute maximum
Winter 1986-87
1986 Dec - 17.4 + 0.8 1 2 0 0 - 19 - 13 - 25 0
1987 Jan - 17.1 + 5.0 9 0 0 0- 18 - 13- 24 0
Feb- 15.3- 1.60000- 17- 12- 22- 3
Mar- 9.5+ 2.15522- 10- 5- 16+ 3
Av-14.8E 6.3E15E7E2E2Av-16Av-11Av-27E 0
Winter 1987-88
1987 Dec- 13.6+ 2.33222- 15- 10- 21- 0
1988 Jan- 11.2+ 4.44222- 13- 8- 18+ 1
Feb- 12.0+ 0.10000- 12- 9- 17- 0
Mar- 8.8+ 2.74100- 10- 5- 15+ 2
Apr- 3.8+ 6.311141028- 4+ 3- 9+ 12
Av-9.9E18.8E22E19E14E32Av-11Av-6Av-16E+ 15
Winter 1988-89
1988 Dec- 13.4+ 2.93000- 14- 10- 21- 0
1989 Jan- 8.4+ 4.55226- 10- 7- 16+ 2
Feb- 8.3+ 1.15000- 10- 6- 14- 1
Mar- 2.8+ 5.117515- 4- 0- 9+ 3
Av-8.2E13.6E30 E 7 E 3Ell Av-9.5Av-5.8 Av-15E+ 4

4. Results

Tables II and III summarize the result of metals and sulfate-ion accumulation in snow. Metal contents in snow are extraordinarily great. Within the distance ~ 20 km to North and South from Smelter the nickel and copper accumulation in snow reached 2,000-3,000 g km-2 day-1. Aside of emissions plume, e.g. to WNW the quantities are one-two orders less. The snow contamination by metals decreased rather appropriately along the emissions plume, variations are due by terrain factors - Figure 2. The small changes of contamination level were found to direction perpendicular to emission plume - Figure 2. In close vicinity of Smelter, within 5-7 km, the metal entrance little depended from geographic orientation of plots - compare plots 1, 6, 7, 8 and 2, 3, 11, 12, 13 (Table III).

On the base of obtained data it is possible approximately choose the zones of pollution in the investigated territory. The cordon Kupes accepted the reference area. Five zone - Figure 1 - are chosen by excess of nickel snow accumulation over the reference:
1 - > 200 - extraordinary contamination
2 - 50-199 - very strong
3 - 15-49 - strong
4 - 2-14 - moderate
5 - 1 - reference

The territory of the town of Monchegorsk and its vicinity and the belts to South and NNE from the Smelter are contaminated extraordinarily and very strong. East and South-East outskirts of Lapland Reserve are contaminated up to strong and very strong level. The West part of Lapland Reserve is contaminated to moderate level. The share of water-soluble metal of total snow accumulation is shown in Table IV.
This shows it's not enough to analyse a snow filtrate only. It was found no essential difference of water-soluble metal share in polluted and pure areas.
pH of snow melt-water was rather high - 4-6, and it was found no essential connection between snow contamination and pH.
The fluctuations of sulfate accumulation level by snow in greatly polluted areas were the same of nickel and copper - Figure 2. In the same time the sulfate accumulation remains high in rather pure areas, where metal accumulation decreases hundreds times. For example, the sulfate accumulation near cordons Vuva and Kupes in season 1987-88 was only 2-3 times less than in extraordinarily polluted areas near Smelter - Table III. Metal accumulation in these pure sampling plots was 100-250 times less than close Smelter - Table III. The difference of metal accumulation during different seasons are noticed being reached 3-5 times (Table III and V). The quantity and chemical composition of dust and gaseous emissions by Severonickel Smelter Complex were invariable during these years.

Table II
Snow meltwater. Metal concentrations and pH
Plot No Position in relation to Smelter Location Sampling date pH Concentration mcg/1 Ratio SO4 Ni+Cu
distance km azimuth (°) nickel copper sulfate ion
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1665Forest Station Highway Murmansk-Peterburg:03.876.2526042062509.2
21045128 km03.875.60870168065002.5
31245126 km03.874.65630140053002.6
53055Road Olenegorsk-Lovozero, 5 km03.876.153560400042
6480Moncha settl.03.895.3741023045007.0
7580Moncha settl.03.895.9224020034007.7
8680Moncha settl.03.895.8822016036009.5
912125Rij-bay settl.03.894.784040240030
103205Highway Murmansk-Peterburg: 142 km04.885.33170045067303.1
1114190151 km03.874,6527079031002.9
1216180153 km03.873.8523074029003.0
1320180157 kmO3,874.1321054029003.9
1423180160 km03.87З.8З2501280380O2.5
1527175Lake Kisloye 5 km road to Apatity 03.895.22405028003.1
1632185Highway Murmansk-Peterburg: 169 km03.874.954526020006.6
04.88 4080350029
1734190179 km04.885060270025
1834195Chuna settl. Seyd-luht (Chuna-lake)04.883030213036
1932210Squirrel izba04.883.731010170085
2031230(Chuna river)04.884.65761500115
2141230Cordon Nyavka04.88208190068
2249240Cordon Mavra04.881081900106
2353220Dolgoe lake04.883010240060
2480245Ena settl.04.889010210021
2580245Ensky settl.04.88505200036
2749260Telg-vyd hill04.88641600160
2864265Cordon Liva04.88541300144
2975280Cordon Vuva04.885.87441800225
3023285Tashkim lake04.884.45751800150
3136295Cordon Kupes04.886.15311000250
3250295Nyavka lake03.894.17441700213
3383295Cordon Poos04.886.20681500107
3460305Koyst lake04.885.15331200200
3510330Yarva river03.895.0320017029008
3617325Cordon Red Lambina04.885.551510200080
3755330Kutskol settl.03.894.856102000125
3835345lakes isthmus03.895.637070230016
39200(Moncha lake)03.895.4023026028006

Table III
Amount of nickel, copper and sulfateion in snow
Plot No Plot position in relation to Smelter Sampling date Quantity of metals and sulfateion by accumulation period Calculated entrance in forest litter
km (°) gkm-2 /day-1 - rngkg" Vyr"1
nickel total copper total sulfateion in filtrate nickel total copper total

Table IV
Share of water-soluble metal of total snow accumulation (%)
198716 ± 1.353 ± If
198827 ± 2.433 ± 13
198924 ± 0.945 ±8

5. Discussion

It is possible to compare the metal entrance in most pure parts of Lapland Reserve, namely near cordons Vuva and Kupes, with any background region far from metal emisions sources. This permits to imagine the scale of landscape pollution by nickel and copper. The annual entrance of nickel near Valdai (the centre of Russia) was found 1 kg km-2 year-1, and the same of copper - 3-4 kg km-2 year-1 (Alexeenko, 1988). The nickel entrance near cordons Vuva and Kupes (calculated by Table V) was found in winter 1988-89 6-7 kg km-2 year-1, i.e. 6-7 times more the background of Russia centre. This corresponds with data of Makarova (Kryuchkov and Makarova, 1989) about total pollution of Kola Peninsula by heavy metals.

Sulfate-ion is accumulating in a snow as a result of absorption of atmospheric sulfates and sulfur dioxide by snow crystals in upper atmospheric levels. The place of accumulation can be remote very much from the place of snow fall-out (Vasylenko et al., 1985). The transfer of salts from surface of open ocean is possible too, its share naturally is identical in all parts of investigating territory. The metals, on the contrary, get in snow mainly in form of dust emitting, in our case, by furnaces of Severonickel Smelter Complex. The distribution of these pollutants in space depends on the size of dust particles.

It is possible to prove the absence of connection between nickel, copper and sulfate-ion in a snow by the ratio of total sulfate and nickel-copper in a snow melt-water (Table III). The ratio sulfate - metal in salts NiSC>4 and Q1SO4 is 1.63 and 1.51 respectively, at the same time this ratio near Smelter was 6-40, and in far areas, where the metal entrance was essentially less, the ratio reached 100-300. We consider that the different content of metals found in snow in different seasons at the same sampling plots results from washing of water-soluble metal salts out of snow cover during thaws and winter rains. Average temperatures and thaws, frequency and duration of rains were essentually different during observed seasons - see Table I. The winter 1986-87 was cold and the winter 1988-89 was extraordinarily warm. The winter 1987-88 up to April was less differed from one of 1986-87, but in beginning of April 1988 rain duration was 28 hours, and snow was got soaked to the soil.

The connection was not found between meteorological conditions and the release of sulfate-ion out of snow - Table V. Sulfate anions absorbed by snow cristals from atmosphere are distributed more or less upon all tickness of snow grains. For this reason the surface moistenning doesn't decrease the sulfate concentration in a snow.

We have the reason to consider that a quantity metals falling on the ground surface and calculated by snow chemical analyses is less that real one in result of natural washing out of snow. Of course if it would be possibly to establish the snow collector isolated from the soil, the results would be nearer to a reality. But we don't know the satisfactory construction.

It's possibly to calculate the nickel and copper entrance in the upper soil layer being based on obtained data. Some preliminary conditions. The metal entrance on the landscape in the unit of time is constant during a year, independently of the season. This condition follows from the constancy of smelter emissions during a year. This permits to extend the results obtained for snow period on the whole year.

The metals being in water-soluble forms remain in soil wholly during snow-less period; but ones, accumulated in snow, devide by half-and-half (Molchanov, 1973), namely half remains in soil, and half goes out during the spring melting of snow. On the contrary the water-insoluble forms fallen on a landscape both during snow and snow-less seasons remain in soil wholly.

The accepted conventional signs are:

The calculation shows (Table III) the annual accumulation of metals in a top soil not less 4-9 times exceeds the background metal concentration in radius 10-12 km from Smelter, and not less 2 times at distance 30-40 km to South and to North. The regression of calculated metal deposition to the real content of metal in A0 horizon is shown in Figure 3. The metal concentration data in soil are borrowed from (Barcan et aL, 1993). The different angles of slope are in result of different metal accumulation in snow during different seasons.

Table V
Fluctuation of pollutants accumulation by snow in different years
Plot No. Nickel Accumulation gkm2/day-1 Ratio Copper Accumulation gkm2/day-1 Ratio Sulfate-ion Accumulation gkm2/day-1 Ratio
1986-87 1987-88 1988-89 1986-87 1987-88 1988-89 1986-87 1987-88 1988-89
51605080 1:0.3:0.51904045 1:0.2:0.23160152032001:0.5:1.0

6. Conclusion

It is found that an investigated territory (about 4,000 km2) including Lapland Reserve area is wholly contaminated with nickel and copper caused by industrial emissions of Severonickel Smelter Complex. The metal accumulation by snow is found considerably dependent on the meteorological conditions due to the metal leaching from a snow during thaws and winter rains. For this reason the snow sampling is unapplicable for pollution monitoring in the subarctic seaside climate, because it can lead to false conclusions. This method is useful only for reconnaisans, initial valuation of the unknown territory pollution.


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