Using Existing Arctic Atmospheric Mercury Measurements to Refine Global and Regional Scale Atmospheric Transport Models
Abstract:Northern hemisphere background atmospheric concentrations of gaseous elemental mercury (GEM) have been declining by up to 25% over the last ten years at some lower latitude sites. However, this decline has ranged from no decline to 9% over 10 years at Arctic long-term measurement sites. Measurements also show a highly dynamic nature of mercury (Hg) species in Arctic air and snow from early spring to the end of summer when biogeochemical transformations peak. Currently, models are unable to reproduce this variability accurately. Estimates of Hg accumulation in the Arctic and Arctic Ocean by models require a full mechanistic understanding of the multi-phase redox chemistry of Hg in air and snow as well as the role of meteorology in the physicochemical processes of Hg.
We will show how findings from ground-based atmospheric Hg measurements like those made in spring 2012 during the Bromine, Ozone and Mercury Experiment (BROMEX) near Barrow, Alaska can be used to reduce the discrepancy between measurements and model output in the Canadian GEM-MACH-Hg model. The model is able to reproduce and to explain some of the variability in Arctic Hg measurements but discrepancies still remain. One improvement involves incorporation of new physical mechanisms such as the one we were able to identify during BROMEX. This mechanism, by which atmospheric mercury depletion events are abruptly ended via sea ice leads opening and inducing shallow convective mixing that replenishes GEM (and ozone) in the near surface atmospheric layer, causing an immediate recovery from the depletion event, is currently lacking in models. Future implementation of this physical mechanism will have to incorporate current remote sensing sea ice products but also rely on the development of products that can identify sea ice leads quantitatively. In this way, we can advance the knowledge of the dynamic nature of GEM in the Arctic and the impact of climate change along with new regulations on the overall atmospheric cycling of Hg in the Arctic.