06 Jun 2023
 | 06 Jun 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Influences of sources and weather dynamics on atmospheric deposition of Se species and other trace elements

Esther S. Breuninger, Julie Tolu, Iris Thurnherr, Franziska Aemisegger, Aryeh Feinberg, Sylvain Bouchet, Jeroen E. Sonke, Véronique Pont, Heini Wernli, and Lenny H. E. Winkel

Abstract. Atmospheric deposition is an important source of the essential trace element selenium (Se) to terrestrial ecosystems and food chains. The fate of Se supplied to surface environments by atmospheric deposition strongly depends on total Se concentrations as well as its chemical form (speciation). However, the factors determining total Se and its speciation in atmospheric deposition remain poorly understood. Here, we applied different chemical measurements to aerosol samples taken at a weekly resolution over 5 years (2015–2019), as well as precipitation and cloud water samples taken during a field campaign of two months in 2019 at Pic du Midi Observatory (French Pyrenees; 2877 m a.s.l.) and combined these observations with sophisticated modelling approaches. The high-altitude site enables the investigation of local and long-range elemental transport from both marine and continental sources and the role of different weather systems in elemental deposition. Total concentrations of trace elements were measured in aerosol extracts and wet deposition, and Se speciation was obtained with an optimized chromatographic method coupled to inductively coupled plasma tandem mass spectrometry (LC-ICP-MS/MS). These analyses were combined with molecular organic compound analysis by pyrolysis-gas chromatography mass spectrometry (Py-GC-MS). For modelling the source contributions to Se, we used a combination of i) a Eulerian approach with the atmospheric aerosol-chemistry-climate model SOCOL-AERv2, and ii) a Lagrangian approach with air parcel backward trajectories and a moisture source diagnostics. While weekly Se measurements in the 2015–2020 aerosol time series agreed very well (r~0.8) with SOCOL-AERv2 model results, the higher Se concentrations (>0.05 ng·m-3) observed in summer were underestimated by the model. We could explain these higher concentrations in summer by convection related to thunderstorms that led to high aerosol loadings and which are not resolved explicitly in the model. In addition, convective events, associated with continental moisture sources, also explained the highest concentrations of Se and most other trace elements in wet deposition, due to efficient below cloud scavenging, indicating the importance of local cloud dynamics on the supply of Se and other, essential and non-essential, trace elements to surface environments. While data for water isotopes in precipitation indicated an uncoupling of hydrological and trace element cycling related to below cloud scavenging, cloud water isotopes and trace elements showed high correlations indicating that the water and trace element cycles are strongly coupled from the source to the formation of clouds with a possible decoupling occurring during precipitation. Furthermore, cloud water showed more regional trace element and moisture sources than precipitation samples. With this comprehensive set of observations and model diagnostics we could explain inorganic Se speciation in unprecedented detail by linking moisture sources and organic chemical compounds in aerosols to speciation data of Se and S, indicating local vs long-range transport and anthropogenic vs natural Se sources. We report for the first-time organic Se in precipitation (and aerosols), for which we could elucidate a marine biogenic source. Our study thus provides new insights into the factors explaining atmospheric deposition of Se and other trace elements and highlights the importance of weather system dynamics in addition to source contributions for the atmospheric supply of trace elements to surface environments.

Esther S. Breuninger et al.

Status: open (extended)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-1135', Anonymous Referee #1, 05 Jul 2023 reply
  • CC1: 'Comment on Breuninger et al.', Nadine Borduas-Dedekind, 19 Aug 2023 reply

Esther S. Breuninger et al.

Esther S. Breuninger et al.


Total article views: 321 (including HTML, PDF, and XML)
HTML PDF XML Total Supplement BibTeX EndNote
235 74 12 321 29 5 6
  • HTML: 235
  • PDF: 74
  • XML: 12
  • Total: 321
  • Supplement: 29
  • BibTeX: 5
  • EndNote: 6
Views and downloads (calculated since 06 Jun 2023)
Cumulative views and downloads (calculated since 06 Jun 2023)

Viewed (geographical distribution)

Total article views: 314 (including HTML, PDF, and XML) Thereof 314 with geography defined and 0 with unknown origin.
Country # Views %
  • 1
Latest update: 22 Sep 2023
Short summary
Atmospheric deposition is an important source of selenium (Se) and other health-relevant trace elements to surface environments. We found that the variability in elemental concentrations in atmospheric deposition does not only reflect changes in emission sources but also weather conditions during atmospheric removal. Depending on the sources and if Se is derived more locally or from further away, the Se forms can be different affecting the bioavailability of Se atmospherically supplied to soils.