1Department of Earth and Space Science and Engineering, York University, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2Air Quality Modelling and Integration Section, Environment Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
3Air Quality Modelling and Integration Section, Environment Canada, Dorval, Quebec, Canada
Abstract. Atmospheric mercury depletion events (AMDEs) refer to a recurring depletion of mercury in the springtime Arctic (and Antarctic) boundary layer, occurring, in general, concurrently with ozone depletion events (ODEs). To close some of the knowledge gaps in the physical and chemical mechanisms of AMDEs and ODEs, we have developed a one-dimensional model that simulates multiphase chemistry and transport of trace constituents throughout porous snowpack and in the overlying atmospheric boundary layer (ABL). Building on the model reported in a companion paper (Part 1: In-snow bromine activation and its impact on ozone), we have expanded the chemical mechanism to include the reactions of mercury in the gas- and aqueous-phases with temperature dependence of rate and equilibrium constants accounted for wherever possible. Thus the model allows us to study the chemical and physical processes taking place during ODEs and AMDEs within a single framework where two-way interactions between the snowpack and the atmosphere are simulated in a detailed, process-oriented manner.
Model runs are conducted for meteorological and chemical conditions representing the springtime Arctic ABL loaded with "haze" sulfate aerosols and the underlying saline snowpack laid on sea ice. Using recent updates for the Hg + Br ⇄ HgBr reaction kinetics, we show that the rate and magnitude of photochemical loss of gaseous elemental mercury (GEM) during AMDEs exhibit a strong dependence on the choice of reaction(s) of HgBr subsequent to its formation. At 253 K, the temperature that is presumably low enough for bromine radical chemistry to cause prominent AMDEs as indicated from field observations, the parallel occurrence of AMDEs and ODEs is simulated if the reaction HgBr + BrO is assumed to produce a thermally stable intermediate, Hg(OBr)Br, at the same rate constant as the reaction HgBr + Br. On the contrary, the simulated depletion of atmospheric mercury is notably diminished by not allowing the former reaction to occur in the model. Similarly to ozone (reported in the companion paper), GEM is destroyed via bromine radical chemistry more vigorously in the snowpack interstitial air than in the ambient air. However, the impact of such in-snow sink of GEM is found to be often masked by the re-emissions of GEM from the snow following the photo-reduction of Hg(II) deposited from the atmosphere. Gaseous oxidized mercury (GOM) formed in the ambient air is found to undergo fast "dry deposition" to the snowpack by being trapped on the snow grains in the top ~ 1 mm layer. We hypothesize that liquid-like layers on the surface of snow grains are connected to create a network throughout the snowpack, thereby facilitating the vertical diffusion of trace constituents trapped on the snow grains at much greater rates than one would expect inside solid ice crystals. Nonetheless, on the timescale of a week simulated in this study, the signal of atmospheric deposition does not extend notably below the top few centimeters of the snowpack. We propose and show that particulate-bound mercury (PBM) is produced mainly as HgBr42− by taking up GOM into bromide-enriched aerosols after ozone is significantly depleted in the air mass. In the Arctic, "haze" aerosols may thus retain PBM in ozone-depleted air masses, allowing the airborne transport of oxidized mercury from the area of its production farther than in the form of GOM. Temperature dependence of thermodynamic constants calculated in this study for Henry's law and aqueous-phase halide complex formation of Hg(II) species is a critical factor for this proposition, calling for experimental verification. The proposed mechanism may explain a major part of changes in the GOM-PBM partitioning with seasons, air temperature and the concurrent progress of ozone depletion as observed in the high Arctic. The net deposition of mercury to the surface snow is shown to increase with the thickness of the turbulent ABL and to correspond well with the column amount of BrO in the atmosphere.