Mercury fluxes over an Australian alpine grassland and observation of nocturnal atmospheric mercury depletion events

Dean Howard*, Grant C. Edwards

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)
    21 Downloads (Pure)


    Aerodynamic gradient measurements of the air-surface exchange of gaseous elemental mercury (GEM) were undertaken over a 40 ha alpine grassland in Australia's Snowy Mountains region across a 3-week period during the late austral summer. Bi-directional GEM fluxes were observed throughout the study, with overall mean value of 0.2±14.5 ngm-2 h-1 and mean nocturnal fluxes of -1.5±7.8 ngm-2 h-1 compared to diurnal fluxes of 1.8±18.6 ngm-2 h-1. Deposition velocities ranged from -2.2 to 2.9 cm s-1, whilst ambient GEM concentrations throughout the study were 0.59±0.10 ngm-3. Cumulative GEM fluxes correlated well with 24 h running mean soil temperatures, and one precipitation event was shown to have a positive impact on diurnal emission fluxes. The underlying vegetation had largely senesced and showed little stomatal control on fluxes. Nocturnal atmospheric mercury depletion events (NAMDEs) were observed concomitant with O3 depletion and dew formation under shallow, stable nocturnal boundary layers. A mass balance box model was able to reproduce ambient GEM concentration patterns during NAMDE and non-NAMDE nights without invoking chemical oxidation of GEM throughout the column, indicating a significant role of surface processes controlling deposition in these events. Surface deposition was enhanced under NAMDE nights, though uptake to dew likely represents less than one-fifth of this enhanced deposition. Instead, enhancement of the surface GEM gradient as a result of oxidation at the surface in the presence of dew is hypothesised to be responsible for a large portion of GEM depletion during these particular events. GEM emission pulses following nights with significant deposition provide evidence for the prompt recycling of 17% of deposited mercury, with the remaining portion retained in surface sinks. The long-term impacts of any sinks are however likely to be minimal, as cumulative GEM flux across the study period was close to zero.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)129-142
    Number of pages14
    JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 5 Jan 2018

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    Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


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