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Environmental records of carbonaceous fly-ash particles from fossil-fuel combustion

A summary


Analysis of fly-ash particles in lake sediments has become increasingly important in studies of environmental pollution and lake acidification history. Most fly-ash studies have concerned black spheroidal carbonaceous particles (SCP)(>5 μm) produced from oil and coal combustion. This review paper provides a summary of this technique and its application, and focusses on our investigations in Sweden between 1979 and 1993. It consists of five parts: i) preparation and analysis methods, ii) historical trends in atmospheric deposition, iii) geographical surveys of atmospheric deposition, iv) sediment dating, and v) studies of sedimentation processes in lakes. Methods for preparation and analyses of SCP have been developed and applied to investigations using sediment, soil and snow samples. Stratigraphic trends of SCP concentrations in lake-sediment cores reflect the consumption history of fossil fuels. A characteristic temporal SCP pattern, with a marked concentration increase beginning after the 1940's and a peak in the early 1970's, has been recognized in most Swedish lakes and elsewhere in Europe. A survey of SCP concentrations in surface sediments of >100 lakes covering Sweden demonstrated that polluted areas in southern Sweden had >100 times higher SCP concentrations than clean areas in the north. The spatial distribution of SCP over Sweden is similar to the deposition pattern of long-range transported airborne pollutants, such as excess sulphate monitored by network stations. SCP also accumulate in soils, and soil analyses can be used for determining the integrated historical deposition of SCP at the local or regional scale. Finally, SCP have been used for indirect dating of sediment cores and as a marker to assess sediment distribution patterns within lake basins.

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Wik, M., Renberg, I. Environmental records of carbonaceous fly-ash particles from fossil-fuel combustion. J Paleolimnol 15, 193–206 (1996).

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Key words

  • spheroidal carbonaceous particles
  • fly-ash
  • fossil fuel combustion
  • pollution
  • sediments
  • soils
  • snow
  • Sweden