Measuring mercury in coastal fog water



Mercury, a heavy metal neurotoxin, accumulates in sea life, in some cases reaching levels that make seafood unsafe for humans to eat. How mercury gets into aquatic organisms is debated, but part of the pathway could include mercury carried in precipitation, including rain, snow, and fog. The contribution of mercury in fog water in particular is not well known, especially in foggy coastal areas such as coastal California. To learn more,Weiss-Penzias et al. measured total mercury and monomethyl mercury concentrations in fog water and rainwater samples taken from four locations around Monterey Bay, California, during spring and summer 2011. They found that the mean monomethyl mercury concentrations in their fog water samples were about 34 times higher than the mean concentrations in their rainwater samples. Therefore, the authors believe that fog is an important, previously unrecognized source of mercury to coastal ecosystems. They also explored potential sources of mercury, finding that biotically formed monomethyl mercury from oceanic upwelling may contribute to monomethyl mercury in fog. (Geophysical Research Letters, doi:10.1029/2011GL050324, 2012)