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Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene


Marine fog water samples were collected over two summers (2014–2015) with active strand collectors (CASCC) at eight coastal sites from Humboldt to Monterey counties in California, USA, and on four ocean cruises along the California coastline in order to investigate mercury (Hg) cycling at the ocean-atmosphere-land interface. The mean concentration of monomethylmercury (MMHg) in fog water across terrestrial sites for both years was 1.6 ± 1.9 ng L-1 (<0.01–10.4 ng L-1, N = 149), which corresponds to 5.7% (2.0–10.8%) of total Hg (HgT) in fog. Rain water samples from three sites had mean MMHg concentrations of 0.20 ± 0.12 ng L-1 (N = 5) corresponding to 1.4% of HgT. Fog water samples collected at sea had MMHg concentrations of 0.08 ± 0.15 ng L-1 (N = 14) corresponding to 0.4% of HgT. Significantly higher MMHg concentrations in fog were observed at terrestrial sites next to the ocean relative to a site 40 kilometers inland, and the mean difference was 1.6 ng L-1. Using a rate constant for photo-demethylation of MMHg of -0.022 h-1 based on previous demethylation experiments and a coastal-inland fog transport time of 12 hours, a mean difference of only 0.5 ng L-1 of MMHg was predicted between coastal and inland sites, indicating other unknown source and/or sink pathways are important for MMHg in fog. Fog water deposition to a standard passive 1.00 m2 fog collector at six terrestrial sites averaged 0.10 ± 0.07 L m-2 d-1, which was ∼2% of typical rainwater deposition in this area. Mean air-surface fog water fluxes of MMHg and HgT were then calculated to be 34 ± 40 ng m-2 y-1 and 546 ± 581 ng m-2 y-1, respectively. These correspond to 33% and 13% of the rain fluxes, respectively.


© 2016 Weiss-Penzias et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Published in Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene