Pre-industrial and recent (1970-2010) atmospheric deposition of sulfate and mercury in snow on southern Baffin Island, Arctic Canada.Sci Total Environ. 2015 Mar 15; 509-510:104-14.ST
Sulfate (SO4(2-)) and mercury (Hg) are airborne pollutants transported to the Arctic where they can affect properties of the atmosphere and the health of marine or terrestrial ecosystems. Detecting trends in Arctic Hg pollution is challenging because of the short period of direct observations, particularly of actual deposition. Here, we present an updated proxy record of atmospheric SO4(2-) and a new 40-year record of total Hg (THg) and monomethyl Hg (MeHg) deposition developed from a firn core (P2010) drilled from Penny Ice Cap, Baffin Island, Canada. The updated P2010 record shows stable mean SO4(2-) levels over the past 40 years, which is inconsistent with observations of declining atmospheric SO4(2-) or snow acidity in the Arctic during the same period. A sharp THg enhancement in the P2010 core ca 1991 is tentatively attributed to the fallout from the eruption of the Icelandic volcano Hekla. Although MeHg accumulation on Penny Ice Cap had remained constant since 1970, THg accumulation increased after the 1980s. This increase is not easily explained by changes in snow accumulation, marine aerosol inputs or air mass trajectories; however, a causal link may exist with the declining sea-ice cover conditions in the Baffin Bay sector. The ratio of THg accumulation between pre-industrial times (reconstructed from archived ice cores) and the modern industrial era is estimated at between 4- and 16-fold, which is consistent with estimates from Arctic lake sediment cores. The new P2010 THg record is the first of its kind developed from the Baffin Island region of the eastern Canadian Arctic and one of very few such records presently available in the Arctic. As such, it may help to bridge the knowledge gap linking direct observation of gaseous Hg in the Arctic atmosphere and actual net deposition and accumulation in various terrestrial media.