Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-1046
https://doi.org/10.5194/egusphere-2024-1046
16 Apr 2024
 | 16 Apr 2024
Status: this preprint is open for discussion and under review for Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics (ACP).

Elevated oxidized mercury in the free troposphere: Analytical advances and application at a remote continental mountaintop site

Eleanor J. Derry, Tyler Elgiar, Taylor Y. Wilmot, Nicholas W. Hoch, Noah S. Hirshorn, Peter Weiss-Penzias, Christopher F. Lee, John C. Lin, A. Gannet Hallar, Rainer Volkamer, Seth N. Lyman, and Lynne E. Gratz

Abstract. Mercury (Hg) is a global atmospheric pollutant. In its oxidized form (HgII), atmospheric Hg can readily deposit to ecosystems, where it may bioaccumulate and cause severe health effects. High HgII concentrations are reported in the free troposphere, but spatiotemporal data coverage is limited. Underestimation of HgII by commercially available measurement systems hinders quantification of Hg cycling and fate. During spring-summer 2021 and 2022, we measured elemental (Hg0) and oxidized Hg using a calibrated dual-channel system alongside trace gases, aerosol properties, and meteorology at the high-elevation Storm Peak Laboratory (SPL) above Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Oxidized Hg concentrations displayed temporal behavior similar to previous work at SPL, but were approximately three times higher in magnitude due to improved measurement accuracy. We identified 18 multi-day events of elevated HgII (mean enhancement: 36 pg m-3) that occurred in dry air (mean ± s.d. RH = 32 ± 16 %). Lagrangian particle dispersion model (HYSPLIT-STILT) 10-day back-trajectories showed that the majority of transport prior to events occurred in the low to mid-free troposphere. Oxidized Hg was anticorrelated with Hg0 during events, with an average (± s.d.) slope of -0.39 ± 0.14, suggestive of upwind oxidation followed by deposition during transport. Concurrent sulfur dioxide measurements verified that three upwind coal-fired power plants did not measurably contribute ambient Hg at SPL. Principal Components Analysis revealed HgII consistently inversely related with Hg0 and was generally not associated with combustion tracers, confirming oxidation in the clean, dry free troposphere as its primary origin.

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Eleanor J. Derry, Tyler Elgiar, Taylor Y. Wilmot, Nicholas W. Hoch, Noah S. Hirshorn, Peter Weiss-Penzias, Christopher F. Lee, John C. Lin, A. Gannet Hallar, Rainer Volkamer, Seth N. Lyman, and Lynne E. Gratz

Status: open (until 28 May 2024)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-1046', Anonymous Referee #1, 03 May 2024 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2024-1046', Anonymous Referee #2, 04 May 2024 reply
Eleanor J. Derry, Tyler Elgiar, Taylor Y. Wilmot, Nicholas W. Hoch, Noah S. Hirshorn, Peter Weiss-Penzias, Christopher F. Lee, John C. Lin, A. Gannet Hallar, Rainer Volkamer, Seth N. Lyman, and Lynne E. Gratz
Eleanor J. Derry, Tyler Elgiar, Taylor Y. Wilmot, Nicholas W. Hoch, Noah S. Hirshorn, Peter Weiss-Penzias, Christopher F. Lee, John C. Lin, A. Gannet Hallar, Rainer Volkamer, Seth N. Lyman, and Lynne E. Gratz

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Short summary
Mercury (Hg) is a globally-distributed neurotoxic pollutant. Atmospheric deposition is the main source of Hg to ecosystems. However, measurement biases hinder understanding of the origins and abundance of the more bioavailable oxidized form. We used an improved, calibrated measurement system to study air mass composition and transport of atmospheric Hg at a remote mountaintop site in the central U.S. Oxidized Hg originated upwind in the low to mid-free troposphere under clean, dry conditions.