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Aircraft Measurements of Total Mercury and Monomethyl Mercury in Summertime Marine Stratus Cloudwater from Coastal California, USA

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journal contribution
posted on 05.02.2018, 00:00 authored by Peter Weiss-Penzias, Armin Sorooshian, Kenneth Coale, Wesley Heim, Ewan Crosbie, Hossein Dadashazar, Alexander B. MacDonald, Zhen Wang, Haflidi Jonsson
Water samples from marine stratus clouds were collected during 16 aircraft flights above the Pacific Ocean near the Central California coast during the summer of 2016. These samples were analyzed for total mercury (THg), monomethyl mercury (MMHg), and 32 other chemical species in addition to aerosol physical parameters. The mean concentrations of THg and MMHg in the cloudwater samples were 9.2 ± 6.0 ng L–1 (2.3–33.8 ng L–1) (N = 97) and 0.87 ± 0.66 ng L–1 (0.17–2.9 ng L–1) (N = 22), respectively. This corresponds to 9.5% (3–21%) MMHg as a fraction of THg. Low and high nonsea salt calcium ion (nss-Ca2+) concentrations in cloudwater were used to classify flights as “marine” and “continental”, respectively. Mean [MMHg]marine was significantly higher (p < 0.05) than [MMHg]continental consistent with an ocean source of dimethyl Hg (DMHg) to the atmosphere. Mean THg in cloudwater was not significantly different between the two categories, indicating multiple emissions sources. Mean [THg]continental was correlated with pH, CO, NO3, NH4+, and other trace metals, whereas [THg]marine was correlated with MMHg and Na+. THg concentrations were negatively correlated with altitude, consistent with ocean and land emissions, coupled with removal at the cloud-top due to drizzle formation.