A comparison of mercury cycling in Lakes Michigan and Superior

Jeffrey D. Jeremiason, Linda A. Kanne, Tara A. Lacoe, Melissa Hulting, Matt F. Simcik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Mercury cycling in Lake Superior and Lake Michigan was evaluated based on measurements of mercury levels, modeling of evasional fluxes, and development of first-order mass balance models. Total mercury, methylmercury, and dissolved gaseous mercury were measured on sampling cruises in Lake Michigan (2005) and Lake Superior (2006). Average total mercury concentrations in unfiltered surface water were higher in Lake Michigan (420 ± 40 pg/L) compared to Lake Superior (210 ± 20 pg/L). Methylmercury levels were below the detection limit in Lake Michigan. Larger sample volumes were collected to lower detection limits in Lake Superior in 2006 and methylmercury levels averaged 7 ± 6 pg/L. Dissolved gaseous mercury concentrations were also higher in Lake Michigan (27 ± 7 pg/L) compared to Lake Superior (14 ± 8 pg/L). Evasional fluxes were estimated using a two-film model for air-water exchange. The annual evasional flux in Lake Michigan was determined to be ~ 380 kg/yr from Lake Michigan and ~ 160 kg/yr from Lake Superior. Total mercury burdens in each lake were estimated to be ~ 2500 kg in Superior and ~ 2100 kg in Lake Michigan demonstrating that evasional fluxes play an important role in the mass balance of each lake, particularly Lake Michigan. A simple first-order mass balance model demonstrates the importance of air-water exchange and sedimentation as primary removal processes for Hg in each lake. Uncertainties in the mass balance model are highlighted due to lack of key data, particularly in Lake Superior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-336
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by grant GL965123-01 from the Great Lakes National Program Office of the US EPA. We thank Ed Nater (University of Minnesota) and the Ohio EPA for lending us Tekran 2537s to use onboard and the captain and crew of the R/V Lake Guardian.

Copyright 2009 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Air-water exchange
  • Lake Michigan
  • Lake Superior
  • Mercury
  • Methylmercury

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