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<v Speaker 1>We need the cooperation of every country touching on the Arctic. <v Speaker 2>The Arctic belongs to the entire world. It plays a fundamental role in climate. We cannot wish it away. <v Speaker 1>This is an early warning for us of what is going to be showing up in the rest of the world. <v Speaker 3>This is another manifestation of man's lack of awareness of the problems that he causes when releasing pollution to the atmosphere. <v Matthew Bean>Some time back, the skies are not clear; they used to be deep blue all over, even on the horizon. Now you hardly ever see that or ever see that, especially on the horizon. It's always pale blue, really, almost white, the color, all dirty green. It makes me feel sad to see what- how future generations are going to have to put up with. We don't do anything about it, now I'm forseeing some drastic changes. <v Narrator>The Arctic is a unique place on the globe. Far removed from mass industry or sprawling cities, this northern world is connected. Connected by a frozen ocean, by a common culture, by the power of the elements, by the movement of the air. But for all its severity and wildness, the Arctic is a delicate place, constantly pressured by its demanding climate and now pressured by the activities of man. Because it is so delicate and so remote, the Arctic acts as a sensitive instrument for measuring the effects of mankind's activity on Earth. What happens anywhere in the world may affect the Arctic and what happens to the Arctic shows us what is happening to the rest of the world. Well.
<v Narrator>Matthew Bean is a Yupik Eskimo who lives on the tundra along Alaska's Kuskokwim River. For half the year, his homeland is blanketed with snow. The spring thaw reveals rolling tundra. While the land might appear barren, it is rich with life all dependent on an intricate web of plants, animals, water and air. Matthew sees this world as a whole living organism. When there's a change in one member, it affects all the others. In recent years, he has seen a change in the sky.
<v Narrator>The Arizona desert gave the first clues. Glen Shaw is now with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a professor of atmospheric physics at the university's Geophysical Institute. But he began studying particles in the air some 20 years ago as a graduate student. His experiments indicated that the air of the Arizona desert was relatively clean. To prove this, he needed to compare his results to the cleanest air he could find. So he headed north to Alaska. There, he joined other scientists at an air sampling experiment. <v Glen Shaw>The idea in doing this experiment in Alaska was essentially to establish a new calibration for our instruments. We believe that the atmosphere up there would just be absolutely pristine.
<v Narrator>But pristine atmosphere is not what Glen Shaw found. Instead, something hung in the air, filling the sky for thousands of square miles from the polar ice cap south to the interior of Alaska. But how could this be? The Arctic is far from any large industry, where could this haze be coming from? Banded layers of subtlely colored air sometimes looked like the horizon itself, but in fact, they were high above it. Often the haze obscured the horizon. Shaw began calling it arctic haze. Actually, pilots had been seeing something in the sky since the early 1950s, especially in the spring. No one could explain it. The Arctic, after all, is supposed to be pure and unpolluted, but it looked somehow familiar and unsettling. <v Dennis Miller>It's more frequent. It's denser, it's more visible, and it seems like it gets worse every year.
<v Narrator>Dennis Miller is a bush pilot who was flown here for 15 years. <v Dennis Miller>If you see the snow berm on the end of the runway there, that's a bright white color, distinct, bright white. And the Brooks range, the south slopes of the Brooks right behind there, there's just a hazy, orangish hue to them that's much more visible in the air than it is from the ground. And if you're up in the air looking down, you know, towards the horizon, it's just a uniform orange air, orange tint to it, orange haze, smog. I mean, totally unnatural for the Brooks range, that's for sure. <v Glen Shaw>OK, now it's a detective story. The next job is where did the particles come from? What are they made of? What are they composed of? We had to capture some of these particles. We did that by mounting what in effect is just a giant vacuum cleaner on an airplane. <v Narrator>The first air sample Shaw and his colleagues took contain particles of dust, which appeared to come from dust storms in the Gobi Desert of China. One thing was immediately clear. This haze had come from very far away. As it turned out, later, filtered samples showed the desert dust is very rarely found in Arctic air, but surprisingly, something else is quite common
<v Glen Shaw>Air pollution from a from an unknown source that's working its way into Alaska. What's so interesting about this is that it was such a puzzle because as we went north, the air pollution became stronger. <v Matthew Bean>It looked like we were regular smoke coming off the chimney. <v Narrator>Smoke the same kind of smoke found in polluted cities, it diffuses the light and paints the sun red now bright orange sunsets were here on the tundra. These tinted sunsets are caused by tiny particles of pollution. Particles so small they remain suspended in the air for days or weeks at a time. <v Glen Shaw>This is a very simple concept. Here's some very large particles, and if I throw these up in the atmosphere, you can see them fall out. They only remain in the atmosphere for a few seconds of time. If a windstorm comes along and kicks up desert dust, it doesn't stay around very often. It doesn't get kicked up high enough and the particles are so large that they simply fall out. Similarly, with a lot of pollution, a lot of the pollution just falls right out and has a small a very short time and spends in the atmosphere. But if you've ever watched somebody smoking a cigaret, for example, you'll see the little smoke particles or someone burning a chimney. Those particles will take off and sometimes you could watch them travel for miles and miles.
<v Narrator>Just how far this smoke had traveled, nobody knew. But when Matthew Bean learned it was pollution, he wondered what it was doing to the world around it. <v Matthew Bean>I have a great many questions without any answers. How it would affect a human being and how it would affect you and the plant, life is a main food source for wildlife, the human life. I have no answer <v Narrator>For answers to their questions. Matthew Bean and Glen Shaw found themselves together in a most unlikely yet fitting place, Cambridge, England, at the Scott Polar Research Institute. The event was an international symposium on Arctic air pollution.
<v Speaker>Hello, how are you? Did you get my headline? <v Narrator>The many countries represented share a common problem. They are all recipients of pollution from beyond their own borders. <v Speaker 1>More the Scandinavian perspective. <v Speaker>The Danish Research. <v Speaker>Canada and the Canadian North <v Speaker 2>Arctic is also most unfortunately, a pollution sink for airborne pollutants. <v Speaker>Arctic is the longest documented case of routine long range transport that's available in the world today. <v Narrator>Transport is the carrying of pollution with the wind and weather that move around the globe. Air masses move in somewhat predictable patterns. Systems can travel from five to ten thousand miles around the world, picking up pollution from various regions as they go in the Arctic. The pollution stays in the atmosphere for days or weeks at a time. It's weather like this that keeps lower latitude air clean. But this kind of turbulent active system is not commonly found in polar regions here. The air is slow, almost indifferent. Frigid temperatures hold polluted air in the Arctic. <v Glen Shaw>Once the air pollution does flow into this Arctic, it is very similar to blowing cigaret smoke in the chest cabinet freezer in Phenix, Arizona. On a 110 degree day. You go into the stores in Phenix when it's 110 degrees and there is the frozen foods and chest high freezers. And my first inclination is why don't they get why don't they get a door for those freezers? Because it must cost a fortune to cool off a freezer in the hot weather. Well, it doesn't. And that's because cold air sinks in the refrigerate the cold air and it just sinks down in that freezer and it just you don't need a tap on it. Similarly, the cold air in the Arctic sinks down. It stagnates. There's no sun to stir it up.
<v Narrator>Shaw could tell that the pollution was being carried on winds from other parts of the globe, but there aren't enough weather stations in the far north to pinpoint exactly where the air was coming from. Another method had to be found. Now scientists becomes detective and Shaw needed a partner. <v Glen Shaw>I was looking for a chemist and it turns out that I was at a meeting in Reno, Nevada. And Ken Rahn, who I had never heard of before in my life, stood up and gave a talk about some air chemistry...
<v Ken Rahn>...And turned to me and he said, "Aha, you're just the type of person I've been looking for." <v Narrator>I sure I had a new partner, Dr. Ken Ron of the University of Rhode Island. They already knew from previous measurements that wind could carry pollution very long distances. But it was the Arctic drilling pollution like a magnet from all parts of the world. Or was this haze blown in from a single region? To start their investigation, they collected air samples from wherever industry produces massive amounts of smoke, then breaking the samples down to their simplest form. They made a discovery, each polluting region as a chemical makeup, which is uniquely its own. They could now identify the world's major polluters. When detectives solve mysteries, they take fingerprints and compare them with those found at the scene of the crime. So what would Detectives Shaw and Ron do next? Contact the authorities at the scene in this case, BERROW at the northern tip of Alaska and ask them to collect air samples, the atmospheric scientist version of dusting for prints. Here in the high Arctic, the US government has an observatory for monitoring climatic change. Dan Anders oversees the station. <v Dan Anders>Ours is a long term mission to determine the effects of man on the climate. One of our projects is a filter sample, we just simply have a paper filter that we put on a pump and leave it change it twice a week.
<v Narrator>This device was designed by Dr. Ron, but it's really not so different from the air sample are used by Professor Shaw and his colleagues on their first flights around northern Alaska. It's a powerful pump that pulls air through a paper filter. The villages and oil fields of the Arctic do produce some pollution, but very little compared with huge industrial centers, and it has a different composition to keep local pollution from skewing their measurements. The government carefully situated their Barrow Observatory upwind from the town. Even here, thousands of miles away from industrial pollution sources, the filter paper turns dark gray in a matter of days. It smells like engine exhaust. The raw evidence collected at Barrow is sent to Dr. Rons Laboratory in Rhode Island. <v Ken Rahn>Well, here's a couple of samples from Barrowthat like to analyze.
<v Narrator>Dr. Doctor Rahn's assistant, Noel Lewis, carefully cut small pieces from the darkened Filter paper and places them in plastic vials. These, in turn, fit in a larger container called a rabbit for a ride deep into a nuclear reactor. <v Noel Lewis>No, six, five minutes, two samples. OK. <v Narrator>The rabbit is placed in a pneumatic tube where rushing air whisked it away. This is a small reactor, especially built for research, surrounded by walls of concrete and led and covered by a deep protective pool of water is the radioactive core. Whatever is placed inside will itself be made radioactive. <v Ken Rahn>This is the core <v Ken Rahn>of our nuclear reactor, the samples which have been. Shot down the pneumatic tubes are now just outside a few inches outside the center of the of the core, where they're being bombarded by neutrons from the positioning of uranium 235 in the fuel elements in the core, the various elements in the sample are made artificially radioactive as they absorb the neutrons. <v Narrator>Noel retrieves the samples from the reactor. Time is critical now. They must be rushed to the counting room. The samples are safe if handled with care. They are only mildly radioactive and will return to normal in a matter of minutes. When made radioactive, each chemical element decays at its own distinct rate of time and energy. Computers keep track of all this and calculate which elements are present and how much of each of is the result is a system for tracing pollution.
<v Ken Rahn>This peak here is vanadium, one of the primary elements in our tracer's system. The interesting thing about. The presence of large amounts of vanadium at Barrow is that that's not released in the vicinity of Bill. This is, if you will, a proof that this particular element has come from. Great distances away, <v Narrator>Here was a breakthrough, Ron picked out seven chemical elements from the barrel sample, which are produced by heavy industry arsenic, antimony, selenium, vanadium, zinc, manganese and indium. He charted their proportions to each other, then compared the results with other samples from around the world. He found a match. In fact, the pollution fingerprints of two industrial areas were found, one from plants that burn heavy oil. Another coal. Using a mathematical formula, Ron and his associate, Doug Lowenthal, deciphered that. Up to half of the air pollution found at Barrow, Alaska comes from both east and West European countries. The rest seems to come from the central Soviet Union. All this brings us back to Cambridge, where Dr. Ryan discussed his findings, a few of the scientists were skeptical. And the country, which may be most responsible for articles, did not even attend the conference. But many saw that Rons tracer system could easily have broader applications to date is being used to find out who is responsible for other long range pollution problems, such as acid rain. Eventually, the Soviets began opening up. They admit that there might be a problem, but their initial reluctance and the wariness of others demonstrates one hazard of this type of study in nature may not recognize political borders, but people do. <v Matthew Bean>The more I am hearing they Artic haze and its actions the more confused I am, questions continually are popping up in my mind
<v Narrator>Because of his distinctive view of the Arctic. Matthew Bean was invited to address the scientist at Cambridge. <v Matthew Bean>I questioned scientists to whether the reverend came down to work or they were wound up in the atmosphere that they could not answer. And I question in your mind that the particles came down to work. How much of the plant life was hurt or be contaminated because the plant life was the major food source for our wildlife, sea mammal life in the water. I had that questions like, I get excited. I hadn't gotten that far. <v Narrator>A new generation of scientists is just beginning to look at what Arctic air pollution is doing, one of them is Dr. Dan Jarvie. <v Dan Jaffe>What our question is how quickly and how much and when does the Arctic haze get to get removed into snow?
<v Narrator>Studying what Arctic haze does is new, but much research has already been done with pollution further south. In mid latitudes, for instance, we know when air pollution mixes with precipitation, acid rain results, killing forests and lakes. Does Arctic pollution now mix with snow? Does this threaten the tundra? Scientists have not found a definite answer, some believe pollution may be carried out of the Arctic and deposited somewhere else. But Matthew Bean is persistent. He still sees a change in the wildlife and tundra. <v Matthew Bean>This lavender tea here, they're not green like this anymore, not teach, it's good to have a green kind of. But he 10 years ago they used to be sharp green in the fall winter and summer. <v Narrator>No one can explain the changes he perceives, but Matthew recognizes that everything in the world is linked to everything else. So even if they weren't caused by deposits in the snow, still changes in the Dundrum could be an indirect result of air pollution. Anything new in the environment can start a whole chain of events, which no one can predict.
<v Dan Jaffe>First of all, I think we really have an obligation to understand what we are doing to the Earth. That's the first thing. And I am very concerned about the climatic effects of global pollution, Arctic's greenhouse effect, acid rain, all these kinds of issues. And I want to understand them. <v Narrator>Good Arctic haze affect the climate. If it does, the Arctic will show the first changes. The polar regions provide a zone of early warning for the effects of global pollution. Acid rain was first found in northern forests and ozone depletion was first discovered over the South Pole. Looking also at what pollution is doing and other parts of the world, we see climate change as a real possibility. <v Jim Lehrer>Dr Tony Delgenio, a NASA scientist who studied possible changes in climate produced by the so-called greenhouse effect.
<v Tony Del Genio>We know that globally the four warmest years of the past hundred have all come in the 1980s. And we know that the first five months of 1988 globally make it out to be the warmest year on record. <v Narrator>The term greenhouse effect has become a household word. There is serious concern that the earth is getting hotter every year. Global warming was a major topic of discussion at the Cambridge Symposium, and a pioneer in air pollution research was there. <v Brynjulf Ottar>If the general prognosis is correct, we may within 50 years have a rise of the temperature in the Arctic or between the annual mean temperature of five to 10 degrees centigrade. This means that all the ice in the polar basin will melt. It means that there will be a drastic change of climate in the United States. They fear that this may result in too little precipitation in the areas where you grow corn. Today, we may perhaps grow wheat in northern Norway. You may open for shipping across the polar basin and other areas will lose the precipitation and become deserts. We don't know where this will hit. <v Narrator>Air temperatures fluctuate wildly every year, making it hard to tell whether or not the earth really is heating up. Dr. Tom Osterkamp has found an answer by looking underground. Beneath the Arctic land surface are layers of permanently frozen ground permafrost, which hold a history of changes in the Earth's temperatures.
<v Tom Osterkamp>In the permafrost there resides a record of temperatures going back many, many centuries. At this site right here, the permafrost extends some 100 and 120 feet down into the ground. OK, but there he is, about seven feet down from the ground surface here there's a thaw layer. <v Narrator>Thawing permafrost is becoming more and more common. This is just one of many sites where the Geophysical Institute has drilled deep holes into the permafrost. A thermometer tipped cable is lowered into the earth and temperature readings are taken at various depths with telling results. <v Tom Osterkamp>There are changes in the permafrost, temperatures, these have been recorded in the permafrost and it indicates that there has been a climate warming going on for about the last century and that it has increased in amplitude over the last decade or so. You see, permafrost is a product of climate. And when climate changes the permafrost, temperatures change.
<v Narrator>The permafrost holds proof a warming is taking place. While Arctic ice doesn't play a direct part in the greenhouse effect, its contribution to global warming may come in a very different way, using an instrument that measures reflected light. Scientists are seeing if pollution particles are darkening the snow. This could cause the surface to absorb heat rather than reflected. And this would have an effect on the Earth's temperature. No matter what this eventually shows us, we know that Arctic haze is just one strand in a whole web of pollution problems, which entangles the biosphere and scientists are increasingly aware that solutions can't wait. Dr. Juan Roederer is chairman of the United States Arctic Research Commission. <v Juan Roederer>By the time we have found out. That they have where effect so that they are effects. Again, it is too late
<v Narrator>Today, the once neglected Arctic is being closely watched. Its value as a natural laboratory is recognized by countries around the world. <v Juan Roederer>We can only appeal to the spirit of understanding and collaboration, not just between scientists, but between countries. The recognition that we only live on one planet and that's all we have got. This is maybe very idealistic, but I don't see any other solution to it. <v Glen Shaw>More and more, we're beginning to look at the Earth at a little ball that we're on, if which the biosphere is only a thin veneer. We're starting to look at this incredibly complex biosphere as an as an interactive system. And the long range transport of particles is very important part of that system. <v Narrator>We live in a world without borders. What we put into our own sky may end up half a world away. We live in a world where everything is connected and interactive system. What we put in the air will have profound, often unforeseen effects on many other things. Artigas has taught us much about the complexity of our atmosphere, but this giant river of pollution flowing into the Arctic is, after all, manmade. It is preventable, and the ability of our thin, fragile biosphere to handle much more is the biggest concern. In the end,
<v Matthew Bean>it makes me feel sad to see what happened. At that point, we can't do anything about it. Now I'm seeing some drastic changes.
Arctic Haze
Producing Organization
KUAC-TV (Television station : Fairbanks, Alaska)
University of Alaska Fairbanks
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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"ARCTIC HAZE explores the mystery of polluted air invading the arctic; it addresses both scientific and environmental questions about the pollution - its composition, its origins, and its effects on the fragile web of life in the arctic. "Arctic haze has been seen by pilots since the early 1950s, but it wasn't until the mid-1970s that Dr. Glenn Shaw of the University of Alaska Fairbanks positively identified it as pollution. Using a small plane and a vacuum pump, he obtained samples of the pollutants in the air. He wasn't able to determine their source, however; this detective work took the skills of Dr. Kenneth Rahn, an atmospheric chemist at the University of Rhode Island. Using a nuclear reactor, he discovered a way to break down pollution samples and detect their regional origins: Europe and the Soviet Union. "Matthew Bean, a Yup'ik Eskimo in southwestern Alaska, has seen changes in the sky, the wildlife, and the tundra. Scientific research has just begun on the effects of air pollution in the arctic. However, in other parts of the world, pollution has been linked to acid rain and the greenhouse effect. Could air pollution also harm the Arctic's environment? This is Matthew Bean's concern. "ARCTIC HAZE is at once a science program and an environmental program. It should be considered for an award because it weaves together the concerns of two groups of people to tell a story of worldwide importance."--1989 Peabody Awards entry form.
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Producing Organization: KUAC-TV (Television station : Fairbanks, Alaska)
Producing Organization: University of Alaska Fairbanks
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The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
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Chicago: “Arctic Haze,” 1989, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 10, 2023,
MLA: “Arctic Haze.” 1989. The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 10, 2023. <>.
APA: Arctic Haze. Boston, MA: The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from