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Modern and Historic Atmospheric Mercury Fluxes in Northern Alaska:  Global Sources and Arctic Depletion

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journal contribution
posted on 15.01.2005, 00:00 by William F. Fitzgerald, Daniel R. Engstrom, Carl H. Lamborg, Chun-Mao Tseng, Prentiss H. Balcom, Chad R. Hammerschmidt
We reconstruct from lake-sediment archives atmospheric Hg deposition to Arctic Alaska over the last several centuries and constrain a contemporary lake/watershed mass-balance with real-time measurement of Hg fluxes in rainfall, runoff, and evasion. Results indicate that (a) anthropogenic Hg impact in the Arctic is of similar magnitude to that at temperate latitudes; (b) whole-lake Hg sedimentation determined from 55 210Pb-dated cores from the five small lakes demonstrates a 3-fold increase in atmospheric Hg deposition since the advent of the Industrial Revolution; (c) because of high soil Hg concentrations and relatively low atmospheric deposition fluxes, erosional inputs to these lakes are more significant than in similar temperate systems; (d) volatilization accounts for about 20% of the Hg losses (evasion and sedimentation); and (e) another source term is needed to balance the evasional and sedimentation sinks. This additional flux (1.21 ± 0.74 μg m-2 yr-1) is comparable to direct atmospheric Hg deposition and may be due to some combination of springtime Arctic depletion and more generalized deposition of reactive gaseous Hg species.