Eurasian river spring flood observations support net Arctic Ocean mercury export to the atmosphere and Atlantic Ocean.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 12 11; 115(50):E11586-E11594.PN
Midlatitude anthropogenic mercury (Hg) emissions and discharge reach the Arctic Ocean (AO) by atmospheric and oceanic transport. Recent studies suggest that Arctic river Hg inputs have been a potentially overlooked source of Hg to the AO. Observations on Hg in Eurasian rivers, which represent 80% of freshwater inputs to the AO, are quasi-inexistent, however, putting firm understanding of the Arctic Hg cycle on hold. Here, we present comprehensive seasonal observations on dissolved Hg (DHg) and particulate Hg (PHg) concentrations and fluxes for two large Eurasian rivers, the Yenisei and the Severnaya Dvina. We find large DHg and PHg fluxes during the spring flood, followed by a second pulse during the fall flood. We observe well-defined water vs. Hg runoff relationships for Eurasian and North American Hg fluxes to the AO and for Canadian Hg fluxes into the larger Hudson Bay area. Extrapolation to pan-Arctic rivers and watersheds gives a total Hg river flux to the AO of 44 ± 4 Mg per year (1σ), in agreement with the recent model-based estimates of 16 to 46 Mg per year and Hg/dissolved organic carbon (DOC) observation-based estimate of 50 Mg per year. The river Hg budget, together with recent observations on tundra Hg uptake and AO Hg dynamics, provide a consistent view of the Arctic Hg cycle in which continental ecosystems traffic anthropogenic Hg emissions to the AO via rivers, and the AO exports Hg to the atmosphere, to the Atlantic Ocean, and to AO marine sediments.