Impacts of changes in climate, land use and land cover on atmospheric mercury

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Department of Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences; Department of Civil, Environmental, and Geospatial Engineering


Mercury is an important pollutant that can be transported globally due to its long lifetime in the atmosphere. Atmosphere-surface exchange is a major process affecting the cycling of mercury in the global environment and its impacts on food webs. We investigate the sensitivities of the air-surface exchange, atmospheric transport, and budget of mercury to projected 2000–2050 changes in climate and land use/land cover with a global chemical transport model (GEOS-Chem). We find that annual mean Hg(0) dry deposition flux over land could increase by up to 20% in northern mid-latitudes by 2050 due to increased vegetation and foliage density. Climate change can significantly affect both the wet deposition and atmospheric chemistry of mercury. In response to the projected climate change, the annual mean wet deposition flux increases over most continental regions and decreases over most of the mid-latitude and tropical oceans. The annual mean mercury wet deposition flux over northern and southern high latitudes increases by 7% and 8% respectively, largely driven by increases in precipitation there. Surface Hg(0) is predicted to increase generally, because high temperatures decrease Hg(0) oxidation by bromine and high moisture increases aqueous Hg(II) photo reduction. The combined effects of projected changes in climate, land use and land cover increase mercury deposition to the continental biosphere and decrease mercury deposition to the marine biosphere.

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Atmospheric Environment