Arctic atmospheric mercury: Sources and changes

Ashu Dastoor*, Simon J. Wilson, Oleg Travnikov, Andrei Ryjkov, Hélène Angot, Jesper H. Christensen, Frits Steenhuisen, Marilena Muntean

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
13 Downloads (Pure)


Global anthropogenic and legacy mercury (Hg) emissions are the main sources of Arctic Hg contamination, primarily transported there via the atmosphere. This review summarizes the state of knowledge of the global anthropogenic sources of Hg emissions, and examines recent changes and source attribution of Hg transport and deposition to the Arctic using models. Estimated global anthropogenic Hg emissions to the atmosphere for 2015 were ~2220 Mg, ~20% higher than 2010. Global anthropogenic, legacy and geogenic Hg emissions were, respectively, responsible for 32%, 64% (wildfires: 6–10%) and 4% of the annual Arctic Hg deposition. Relative contributions to Arctic deposition of anthropogenic origin was dominated by sources in East Asia (32%), Commonwealth of Independent States (12%), and Africa (12%). Model results exhibit significant spatiotemporal variations in Arctic anthropogenic Hg deposition fluxes, driven by regional differences in Hg air transport routes, surface and precipitation uptake rates, and inter-seasonal differences in atmospheric circulation and deposition pathways. Model simulations reveal that changes in meteorology are having a profound impact on contemporary atmospheric Hg in the Arctic. Reversal of North Atlantic Oscillation phase from strongly negative in 2010 to positive in 2015, associated with lower temperature and more sea ice in the Canadian Arctic, Greenland and surrounding ocean, resulted in enhanced production of bromine species and Hg(0) oxidation and lower evasion of Hg(0) from ocean waters in 2015. This led to increased Hg(II) (and its deposition) and reduced Hg(0) air concentrations in these regions in line with High Arctic observations. However, combined changes in meteorology and anthropogenic emissions led to overall elevated modeled Arctic air Hg(0) levels in 2015 compared to 2010 contrary to observed declines at most monitoring sites, likely due to uncertainties in anthropogenic emission speciation, wildfire emissions and model representations of air-surface Hg fluxes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number156213
JournalScience of the total Environment
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Anthropogenic
  • Attribution
  • Deposition
  • Emissions
  • Modeling
  • Transport


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