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Atmospheric measurements and interpretation: dynamic oxidation of gaseous mercury in the arctic troposphere at polar sunrise

Gaseous elemental mercury has a long atmospheric residence time. Any process that reduces this lifetime increases the potential accumulation of this toxic element in the biosphere. This study shows that rapid oxidation of mercury creates a rapidly depositing species of oxidised gaseous mercury. Data, from a remote site in the Arctic, shows that oxidised mercury can deposit to the surface in concentrations in excess of 900pg/cubic metre, following polar sunrise.

A mechanism for mercury oxidation is proposed whereby halogen atoms (Br and Cl) and halogen oxide radicals (BrO and ClO) are the primary oxidants that produce the oxidised mercury. Several data sets suggest a recent increase in mercury levels in the Arctic, despite a 20-year decrease in global atmospheric mercury emissions. It is thus suggested that atmospheric mercury depletion events (i.e. events which increase deposition to the Arctic land / sea surface) are a recent phenomena and hence have implications for ecosystem (and human) health. Publication of this result in an international journal allows for wide dissemination, in the scientific community, and may prompt debate and further research into this area.

Citation: Lindberg S. E., S. Brooks, C.-J. Lin, K. J. Scott, M. S. Landis, R. K. Stevens, M. Goodsite, A. Richter, Dynamic Oxidation of Gaseous Mercury in the Arctic Troposphere at Polar Sunrise, Environ. Sci. Technol., 36,1245-1256, 2002

Reported by

Institute of Environmental Physics and Remote Sensing IUP/IFE, UNIVERSITAET BREMEN
Postfach 330440
28334 BREMEN
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