Modern and historic atmospheric mercury fluxes in northern Alaska: Global sources and arctic depletion

W. F. Fitzgerald, Daniel R. Engstrom, Carl H. Lamborg, Chun Mao Tseng, Prentiss H. Balcom, Chad R. Hammerschmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

194 Scopus citations


We reconstruct from lake-sediment archives atmospheric Hg deposition to Arctic Alaska over the last several centuries and constrain a contemporary lake/watershed mass-balance with real-time measurement of Hg fluxes in rainfall, runoff, and evasion. Results indicate that (a) anthropogenic Hg impact in the Arctic is of similar magnitude to that at temperate latitudes; (b) whole-lake Hg sedimentation determined from 55 210Pb-dated cores from the five small lakes demonstrates a 3-fold increase in atmospheric Hg deposition since the advent of the Industrial Revolution; (c) because of high soil Hg concentrations and relatively low atmospheric deposition fluxes, erosional inputs to these lakes are more significant than in similar temperate systems; (d) volatilization accounts for about 20% of the Hg losses (evasion and sedimentation); and (e) another source term is needed to balance the evasional and sedimentation sinks. This additional flux (1.21 ± 0.74 μg m -2 yr-1) is comparable to direct atmospheric Hg deposition and may be due to some combination of springtime Arctic depletion and more generalized deposition of reactive gaseous Hg species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)557-568
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 15 2005
Externally publishedYes


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