J. Phys. IV France
Volume 121, December 2004
Page(s) 195 - 208

J. Phys. IV France 121 (2004) 195-208

DOI: 10.1051/jp4:2004121013

Springtime accumulation of atmospheric mercury in polar ecosystems

R. Ebinghaus1, C. Temme1, S.E. Lindberg2 and K.J. Scott3

1  GKSS Research Centre Geesthacht, Institute for Coastal Research, Max-Planck-Str. 1, 21502 Geesthacht, Germany
2  Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Environmental Science Division, Oak Ridge, TN, USA
3  Photuris, 720 Ingersoll Street, Winnipeg, MB, R3G 2J6, Canada

Mercury and many of its compounds behave exceptionally in the environment due to their volatility, capability for methylation, and subsequent biomagnification in contrast with most of the other heavy metals. Long-range atmospheric transport of elemental mercury, its transformation to more toxic methylmercury compounds, the ability to undergo photochemical reactions and their bioaccumulation in the aquatic food chain have made it a subject of global research activities. Atmospheric Mercury Depletion Events (AMDEs) during polar springtime have been experimentally observed in the Arctic and in the Antarctic. During these events Hg0 and ozone concentrations are significantly depleted and well correlated, whereas concentrations of reactive gaseous mercury species (RGM) simultaneously increase. The main reaction mechanism and corresponding chemical and physical properties of involved species in polar regions are summarized in this work. Hg0 is removed from the atmosphere and deposited onto the underlying surface snow. This paper focused on the fast, photochemically driven, oxidation of boundary-layer Hg0, the influence of reactive halogen chemistry, and the resultant net input of mercury into the polar ecosystem during and after polar springtime. Several estimates of the size of the Arctic sink for newly deposited Hg range from $\approx $ 100 - 300 T/y, while estimates of the Antarctic sink are far more uncertain. The role of re-emission of elemental mercury from the snow surface is critically discussed.

© EDP Sciences 2004