Eos, Transactions American Geophysical Union

Understanding the behavior of mercury in the cryosphere



[1] Anthropogenic emission of mercury is increasing, especially in Asia. Mercury in the atmosphere can be deposited into the cryosphere, regions covered by snow and ice. Some of the mercury deposited into the cryosphere is emitted back to the atmosphere, and some enters meltwater, where it can be converted to toxic methylmercury, which can enter the food chain. Many measurements of mercury concentrations in the cryosphere and atmosphere have been made at a variety of field locations and at a variety of times, but it can be difficult to extrapolate from individual field studies. Durnford and Dastoor aim to examine all available data together to derive a consistent theory of the physical and chemical processes governing the behavior of mercury in the cryosphere and the emission of cryospheric mercury to the atmosphere. They present a wide-ranging review of what is known about mercury in the cryosphere. This should help in the development of dynamical, physically based models that accurately capture the behavior of cryospheric mercury and could be used to simulate how cryospheric mercury would respond in a future climate. The authors also present a list of measurements that should be made to provide a more complete view of mercury in the cryosphere and atmosphere. (Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, doi:10.1029/2010JD014809, 2011)