Sources of atmospheric mercury in the tropics: continuous observations at a coastal site in Suriname
1Institute of Environmental Physics, University of Bremen, Germany
2Anton de Kom Universiteit van Suriname, Paramaribo, Suriname
3University of California, Irvine, USA
4Air Quality Research Division, Environment Canada, 2121 Trans Canada Highway, Dorval, QC, H9P 1J3, Canada
Abstract. Mercury measurements at a coastal site in Nieuw Nickerie (5°56' N, 56°59' W), Suriname, provide the only continuous records of atmospheric mercury in the tropics. Here we evaluate observations of total gaseous mercury (TGM) during 2007. Nieuw Nickerie typically samples marine air from the Atlantic Ocean, with occasional influence from continental South America. Over the year, average concentrations are 1.40 ng m−3. As the intertropical convergence zone passes over Suriname twice each year, the site samples both northern and southern hemispheric air masses. We use back trajectories to classify each measurement by hemisphere, as well as continental or ocean. For air passing over ocean before sampling, TGM concentrations are 10% higher in air coming from the Northern Hemisphere (1.45 ng m−3) than from the Southern Hemisphere (1.32 ng m−3). Air from the South American continent also carries higher TGM (1.43 ng m−3) than air from the South Atlantic Ocean, with most of these trajectories occurring in August and September. Biomass burning in Brazil peaks in the same months and likely contributes significantly to elevated concentrations seen in Nickerie. We also compare the observed seasonal cycle to two atmospheric mercury chemistry and transport models (GRAHM and GEOS-Chem). Both models simulate transition between northern and southern hemispheric air, thus capturing the seasonal cycle; however the models overestimate the TGM concentrations during months when Nickerie samples Northern Hemisphere air. It is difficult to determine whether the models' sources or sinks in the Northern Hemisphere tropics are responsible.