Investigation of mercury deposition and potential sources at six sites from the Pacific Coast to the Great Basin, USA

Genine Wright, Mae Sexauer Gustin*, Peter Weiss-Penzias, Matthieu B. Miller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


The Western Airborne Contaminants Assessment Project showed that USA National Parks had fish mercury (Hg) concentrations above threshold concentrations set for wildlife. Since significant areas of the Western USA are arid, we hypothesized that dry deposition would be important. The primary question was whether sources of Hg were local and thus, easily addressed, or regional (from within the United States), or global (long range transport), and more difficult to address. To investigate this, surrogate surfaces and passive samplers for the measurement of GOM deposition and concentration, respectively, were deployed from the coast of California to the eastern edge of Nevada. Meteorological data, back trajectory modeling, and ozone concentrations were applied to better understand potential sources of Hg. Lowest seasonal mean Hg deposition (0.2 to 0.4ngm-2h-1) was observed at low elevation (<100m) Pacific Coast sites. Highest values were recorded at Lick Observatory, a high elevation coastal site (1279m), and Great Basin National Park (2062m) in rural eastern Nevada (1.5 to 2.4ngm-2h-1). Intermediate values were recorded in Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks (0.9 to 1.2ngm-2h-1). Results indicate that local, regional and global sources of air pollution, specifically oxidants, are contributing to observed deposition. At Great Basin National Park air chemistry was influenced by regional urban and agricultural emissions and free troposphere inputs. Dry deposition contributed ~2 times less Hg than wet deposition at the coastal locations, but 3 to 4 times more at the higher elevation sites. Based on the spatial trends, oxidation in the marine boundary layer or ocean sources contributed ~0.4ngm-2h-1 at the coastal locations. Regional pollution and long range transport contributed 1 to 2ngm-2h-1 to other locations, and the source of Hg is global and as such, all sources are important to consider.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1099-1113
Number of pages15
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • passive samplers
  • surrogate surfaces
  • gaseous oxidized mercury
  • ozone


Dive into the research topics of 'Investigation of mercury deposition and potential sources at six sites from the Pacific Coast to the Great Basin, USA'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this