Current and future levels of mercury atmospheric pollution on global scale

Jozef M. Pacyna, Oleg Travnikov, Francesco De Simone, Ian M. Hedgecock, Kyrre Sundseth, Elisabeth G. Pacyna, Frits Steenhuisen, Nicola Pirrone, John Munthe, Karin Kindbom

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Abstract

An assessment of current and future emissions, air concentrations and atmospheric deposition of mercury world-wide are presented on the basis of results obtained during the performance of the EU GMOS (Global Mercury Observation System) project. Emission estimates for mercury were prepared with the main goal of applying them in models to assess current (2013) and future (2035) air concentrations and atmospheric deposition of this contaminant. The artisanal and small- scale gold mining, as well as combustion of fossil fuels (mainly coal) for energy and heat production in power plants and in industrial and residential boilers are the major anthropogenic sources of Hg emissions to the atmosphere at present. These sources account for about 37 % and 25 % of the total anthropogenic Hg emissions globally, estimated to be about 2000 tonnes. The emissions in Asian countries, particularly in China and India dominate the total emissions of Hg. The current estimate of mercury emissions from natural processes (primary mercury emissions and re-emissions), including mercury depletion events, were estimated to be 5207 tonnes per year which represent nearly 70 % of the global mercury emission budget. Oceans are the most important sources (36 %) followed by biomass burning (9 %). A comparison of the 2035 anthropogenic emissions estimated for 3 different scenarios with current anthriopogenic emissions indicates a reduction of these emissions in 2035 up to 85 % for the best case scenario. Two global chemical transport models (GLEMOS and ECHMERIT) have been used for the evaluation of future Hg pollution levels considering future emission scenarios. Projections of future changes in Hg deposition on a global scale simulated by these models for three anthropogenic emissions scenarios of 2035 indicate a decrease of up to 50 % deposition in the Northern Hemisphere and up to 35 % in Southern Hemisphere for the best case scenario. The EU GMOS project has proved to be a very important research instrument for supporting, first the scientific justification for the Minamata Convention, and then monitoring of the implementation of targets of this Convention, as well as, the EU Mercury Strategy. This project provided the state-of-the art with regard to the development of the latest emission inventories for mercury, future emission scenarios, dispersion modelling of atmospheric Hg on global and regional scale, and source – receptor techniques for Hg emission apportionment on a global scale.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-35
Number of pages35
JournalAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions
Issue numberMay
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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