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Global Source–Receptor Relationships for Mercury Deposition Under Present-Day and 2050 Emissions Scenarios

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journal contribution
posted on 15.12.2011, 00:00 by Elizabeth S. Corbitt, Daniel J. Jacob, Christopher D. Holmes, David G. Streets, Elsie M. Sunderland
Global policies regulating anthropogenic mercury require an understanding of the relationship between emitted and deposited mercury on intercontinental scales. Here, we examine source–receptor relationships for present-day conditions and four 2050 IPCC scenarios encompassing a range of economic development and environmental regulation projections. We use the GEOS-Chem global model to track mercury from its point of emission through rapid cycling in surface ocean and land reservoirs to its accumulation in longer lived ocean and soil pools. Deposited mercury has a local component (emitted HgII, lifetime of 3.7 days against deposition) and a global component (emitted Hg0, lifetime of 6 months against deposition). Fast recycling of deposited mercury through photoreduction of HgII and re-emission of Hg0 from surface reservoirs (ice, land, surface ocean) increases the effective lifetime of anthropogenic mercury to 9 months against loss to legacy reservoirs (soil pools and the subsurface ocean). This lifetime is still sufficiently short that source–receptor relationships have a strong hemispheric signature. Asian emissions are the largest source of anthropogenic deposition to all ocean basins, though there is also regional source influence from upwind continents. Current anthropogenic emissions account for only about one-third of mercury deposition to the global ocean with the remainder from natural and legacy sources. However, controls on anthropogenic emissions would have the added benefit of reducing the legacy mercury re-emitted to the atmosphere. Better understanding is needed of the time scales for transfer of mercury from active pools to stable geochemical reservoirs.