Journal article

Atmospheric mercury observations from Antarctica: Seasonal variation and source and sink region calculations

Pfaffhuber K, Berg T, Hirdman D, Stohl A ...see all

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, vol. 12, issue 7 (2012) pp. 3241-3251

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Long term atmospheric mercury measurements in the Southern Hemisphere
are scarce and in Antarctica completely absent. Recent studies have
shown that the Antarctic continent plays an important role in the global
mercury cycle. Therefore, long term measurements of gaseous elemental
mercury (GEM) were initiated at the Norwegian Antarctic Research
Station, Troll (TRS) in order to improve our understanding of
atmospheric transport, transformation and removal processes of GEM. GEM
measurements started in February 2007 and are still ongoing, and this
paper presents results from the first four years. The mean annual GEM
concentration of 0.93 +/- 0.19 ng m(-3) is in good agreement with other
recent southern-hemispheric measurements. Measurements of GEM were
combined with the output of the Lagrangian particle dispersion model
FLEXPART, for a statistical analysis of GEM source and sink regions. It
was found that the ocean is a source of GEM to TRS year round,
especially in summer and fall. On time scales of up to 20 days, there is
little direct transport of GEM to TRS from Southern Hemisphere
continents, but sources there are important for determining the overall
GEM load in the Southern Hemisphere and for the mean GEM concentration
at TRS. Further, the sea ice and marginal ice zones are GEM sinks in
spring as also seen in the Arctic, but the Antarctic oceanic sink seems
weaker. Contrary to the Arctic, a strong summer time GEM sink was found,
when air originates from the Antarctic plateau, which shows that the
summertime removal mechanism of GEM is completely different and is
caused by other chemical processes than the springtime atmospheric
mercury depletion events. The results were corroborated by an analysis
of ozone source and sink regions.

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  • K. A. Pfaffhuber

  • T. Berg

  • D. Hirdman

  • A. Stohl

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