Alpine-ice record of bismuth pollution implies a major role of military use during World War II

Michel Legrand (Corresponding author), Joseph R. McConnell, Gilles Bergametti, Susanne Preunkert, Nathan Chellman, Karine Desboeufs, Laurence Lestel, Andreas Plach, Andreas Stohl

Publications: Contribution to journalArticlePeer Reviewed


Military conflicts result in local environmental damage, but documenting regional and larger scale impacts such as heavy metal pollution has proven elusive. Anthropogenic emissions of bismuth (Bi) include coal burning and various commodity productions but no emission estimates over the past century exist. Here we used Bi measurements in ice cores from the French Alps to show evidence of regional-scale Bi pollution concurrent with the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Tracers of the main sources of Bi emissions measured in the same ice—coal-burning, steel- and aluminum-industry, alloy and other metal processing—indicate a major, previously undocumented additional emissions source that we attribute to military activities between 1935 and 1945 Common Era (CE) in western Europe. These include the use of bismuth for low-melting point alloys for shells, thin-walled aluminum alloy aircraft oil, and munitions.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1166
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jan 2023

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 105204 Climatology

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