Mercury speciation in Pacific coastal rainwater, Monterey Bay, California
Conaway, CH and Black, FJ and Weiss-Penzias, P and Gault-Ringold, M and Flegal, AR, Mercury speciation in Pacific coastal rainwater, Monterey Bay, California, Atmospheric Environment, 44, (14) pp. 1788-1797. ISSN 1352-2310 (2010) [Refereed Article]
We measured mercury speciation in coastal rainwater samples from Monterey Bay, California in 2007–2008 to investigate the source of monomethylmercury (MMHg) in rainwater and determine the relative importance of wet atmospheric deposition of MMHg to coastal waters compared to other sources on the central Pacific coast. Total mercury (HgT) ranged from 10 to 88 pM, with a sample mean ± standard deviation of 33 ± 22 pM (volume-weighted average 29 pM). MMHg concentrations ranged from 0.12 to 2.3 pM with a sample mean of 0.7 ± 0.5 pM (volume-weighted average 0.68 pM). Reactive mercury (HgR) concentrations ranged from 0.87 to 47 pM, sample mean 7.8 ± 8.3 pM (volume-weighted average 6.1 pM). Acetate concentration in rainwater, measured in a subset of samples, ranged from 0.34 to 3.1 μM, and averaged 1.6 ± 0.9 μM (volume-weighted average 1.3 μM). Dimethylmercury (DMHg) concentrations were below the limit of detection in air (<0.01 ng m−3) and rainwater (<0.05 pM). Despite previous suggestions that DMHg in upwelled ocean waters is a potential source of MMHg in coastal rainwater, MMHg in rain was not related to coastal upwelling seasons or surface water DMHg concentrations. Instead, a multiple linear regression analysis demonstrated that MMHg concentrations were positively and significantly correlated (p = 0.002, adjusted R2 = 0.88) with those of acetate and HgR. These data appear to support previous suggestions that the aqueous phase methylation of Hg(II) by acetate may be the source of MMHg in rainwater, but imply that acetate concentrations in rainwater play a more important role relative to HgR than previously hypothesized. However, the calculated chemical speciation of Hg(II) in rainwater and the minimal predicted complexation of Hg(II) by acetate suggest that the aqueous phase methylation of Hg(II) by acetate is unlikely to account for the MMHg found in precipitation, or that the mechanism of this reaction in the atmosphere differs from that previously reported (Gardfeldt et al., 2003).