1Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Mainz, Germany
2Masaryk University, Research Centre for Toxic Compounds in the Environment, Brno, Czech Republic
3University of Hamburg, KlimaCampus, Institute for Hydrobiology and Fisheries Science, Hamburg, Germany
Abstract. PCBs are ubiquitous environmental pollutants expected to decline in abiotic environmental media in response to decreasing primary emissions since the 1970s. A coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model with embedded dynamic sub-models for atmospheric aerosols and the marine biogeochemistry and air-surface exchange processes with soils, vegetation and the cryosphere is used to study the transport and fate of four PCB congeners covering a range of 3–7 chlorine atoms.
The change of the geographic distribution of the PCB mixture reflects the sources and sinks' evolvement over time. Globally, secondary emissions (re-volatilisation from surfaces) are on the long term increasingly gaining importance over primary emissions. They are most important for congeners of medium hydrophobicity (5–6 chlorine atoms). Their levels are predicted to decrease slowest. Congeners' fractionation is characterized both geographically and temporally. It causes enrichment of the lighter, less persistent congeners and more delayed decreasing levels in high latitudes in response to decreasing emissions. Delivery of contaminants to high latitudes is predicted to be more efficient than previously suggested. The results suggest furthermore that the effectiveness of emission control measures may significantly vary among substances: trends of decline in abiotic environmental media do not only vary with latitude (slow in high latitudes), but do also show longitudinal gradients