Comparison of mercury concentrations measured at several sites in the Southern Hemisphere


Our knowledge of the distribution of mercury concentrations in air of the Southern Hemisphere was until recently based mostly on intermittent measurements made during ship cruises. In the last few years continuous mercury monitoring has commenced at several sites in the Southern Hemisphere, providing new and more refined information. In this paper we compare mercury measurements at several remote sites in the Southern Hemisphere made over a period of at least 1 year at each location. Averages of monthly medians show similar although small seasonal variations at both Cape Point and Amsterdam Island. A pronounced seasonal variation at Troll research station in Antarctica is due to frequent mercury depletion events in the austral spring. Due to large scatter and large standard deviations of monthly average median mercury concentrations at Cape Grim, no systematic seasonal variation could be found there. Nevertheless, the annual average mercury concentrations at all sites during the 2007–2013 period varied only between 0.85 and 1.05 ng m−3. Part of this variability is likely due to systematic measurement uncertainties which we propose can be further reduced by improved calibration procedures. We conclude that mercury is much more uniformly distributed throughout the Southern Hemisphere than the distributions suggested by measurements made onboard ships. This finding implies that smaller trends can be detected in shorter time periods. We also report a change in the trend sign at Cape Point from decreasing mercury concentrations in 1996–2004 to increasing concentrations since 2007.
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