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Review article2016Peer reviewedOpen access

Global observations and modeling of atmosphere-surface exchange of elemental mercury: a critical review

Zhu, Wei; Lin, Che-Jen; Wang, Xun; Sommar, Jonas; Fu, Xuewu; Feng, Xinbin


Reliable quantification of air-surface fluxes of elemental Hg vapor (Hg-0) is crucial for understanding mercury (Hg) global biogeochemical cycles. There have been extensive measurements and modeling efforts devoted to estimating the exchange fluxes between the atmosphere and various surfaces (e.g., soil, canopies, water, snow, etc.) in the past three decades. However, large uncertainties remain due to the complexity of Hg-0 bidirectional exchange, limitations of flux quantification techniques and challenges in model parameterization. In this study, we provide a critical review on the state of science in the atmosphere-surface exchange of Hg-0. Specifically, the advancement of flux quantification techniques, mechanisms in driving the air-surface Hg exchange and modeling efforts are presented. Due to the semi-volatile nature of Hg-0 and redox transformation of Hg in environmental media, Hg deposition and evasion are influenced by multiple environmental variables including seasonality, vegetative coverage and its life cycle, temperature, light, moisture, atmospheric turbulence and the presence of reactants (e.g., O-3, radicals, etc.). However, the effects of these processes on flux have not been fundamentally and quantitatively determined, which limits the accuracy of flux modeling.We compile an up-to-date global observational flux database and discuss the implication of flux data on the global Hg budget. Mean Hg-0 fluxes obtained by micrometeorological measurements do not appear to be significantly greater than the fluxes measured by dynamic flux chamber methods over unpolluted surfaces (p = 0.16, one-tailed, Mann-Whitney U test). The spatiotemporal coverage of existing Hg-0 flux measurements is highly heterogeneous with large data gaps existing in multiple continents (Africa, South Asia, Middle East, South America and Australia). The magnitude of the evasion flux is strongly enhanced by human activities, particularly at contaminated sites. Hg-0 flux observations in East Asia are comparatively larger in magnitude than the rest of the world, suggesting substantial re-emission of previously deposited mercury from anthropogenic sources. The Hg-0 exchange over pristine surfaces (e.g., background soil and water) and vegetation needs better constraints for global analyses of the atmospheric Hg budget. The existing knowledge gap and the associated research needs for future measurements and modeling efforts for the air-surface exchange of Hg-0 are discussed.

Published in

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics
2016, Volume: 16, number: 7, pages: 4451-4480 Publisher: COPERNICUS GESELLSCHAFT MBH

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Meteorology and Atmospheric Sciences

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