Aircraft Observations of Mercury over the US: The Nomadss Experiment
Abstract:The Nitrogen, Oxidants, Mercury, and Aerosol Distributions, Sources and Sinks (NOMADSS) experiment took place in the summer of 2013. This is one of the first airborne experiments to focus on the sources and chemistry of Hg in the atmosphere. The experiment flew 19 research flights on the NCAR C-130 aircraft, based out of Smyrna, TN. The primary Hg goals for NOMADSS were to constrain emissions of Hg over the U.S. and quantify the distribution and chemistry of Gaseous Elemental Mercury (GEM) and Reactive Mercury (RM) in the troposphere. We measured speciated Hg on the C-130 using the UW-Detector of Oxidized HG species (UW-DOHGS). This instrument has been developed over several years and tested/calibrated with several HgX2 compounds and other compounds to examine possible interferences. In its current configuration, the instrument quantitatively measures HgX2 compounds (HgCl2 and HgBr2) with no interference from O3.
During NOMADSS, flight planning was facilitated by use of the NASA GEOS-5 system, which provided forecasts for many relevant tracers. Post-mission analyses are being conducted using the GEOS-Chem Hg model. This provides a key tool to compare current estimates of Hg sources and distribution with aircraft observations.
We are using the NOMADSS data for several types of analyses:
- GEM emissions and concentrations in power plant plumes and downwind of urban centers;
- Presence of RM in relatively high concentration in several free tropospheric locations;
- Evaluation and interpretation of the data using the GEOS-Chem Hg model.
While there are a number of important results from NOMADSS, the most striking is the high concentrations of RM GOM in some regions of the upper troposphere, significantly higher than calculated by the standard GEOS-Chem simulation. We believe this is most likely due to halogen oxidation. These results suggest higher halogen concentrations or faster oxidation of GEM and thus a substantial rethinking of Hg oxidation in the global atmosphere.