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TitleFifty years of volcanic mercury emission research: knowledge gaps and future directions
AuthorEdwards, B A; Kushner, D S; Outridge, P MORCID logo; Wang, F
SourceScience of the Total Environment vol. 757, 143800, 2020 p. 1-17,
Alt SeriesNatural Resources Canada, Contribution Series 20200528
PublisherElsevier B.V.
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf; html
SubjectsScience and Technology; mercury; volcanoes
Illustrationsdiagrams; tables; graphs
ProgramEnvironmental Geoscience Program Management
Released2020 11 24
AbstractVolcanism is a potentially important natural source of mercury (Hg) to the environment. However, its impact on the global Hg cycle remains poorly understood despite advances over the last five decades. This represents a major uncertainty in our understanding of the relative contributions of natural and anthropogenic Hg sources to the global atmosphere. This uncertainty, in turn, impacts evaluation of the effectiveness of policies to mitigate the impact of anthropogenic Hg on the environment. Here we critically review recent progress in volcanic Hg emission research, including advances in sampling methods and understanding of the post-emission behavior of Hg in the atmosphere. Our statistical analysis of the limited available data shows that the plumes of non-arc volcanoes exhibit significantly higher Hg concentrations than arc volcanoes, yet the latter emit 3-fold higher Hg fluxes on average. Arc volcanism also dominates volcanic gas emissions globally, indicating that arc volcanoes should be a priority for future Hg emission research. We explore several methodological challenges that continue to hinder progress in quantifying global volcanic Hg emissions, and discuss the importance of longer time-frame data collection to capture temporal variations in emissions. Recommendations are proposed for working toward a more accurate assessment of the global volcanic Hg flux. A detailed summary of all published volcanic Hg emissions data worldwide is also presented as a reference tool for future work.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
Volcanism is thought to be one of the largest natural sources of mercury (Hg) to the environment. However, unlike human-sourced emissions, Hg releases from natural sources in general, and volcanic systems specifically, are poorly quantified because of long-standing logistical and methodological issues. This lack of understanding of a potentially key component of the global Hg cycle affects our ability to efficiently and effectively regulate human Hg emissions. If volcanic Hg emissions are relatively small, then human emissions are the only really important sources of environmental Hg. Regulation of human emissions will thus significantly and directly impact environmental Hg levels and human exposure. But if volcanic and other natural emissions are relatively large, then regulation will bring about only muted and slow responses in environmental Hg levels. In this review, we describe advances and weaknesses in the last 50 years of volcanic Hg research, and suggest priority areas for methodological improvement and sustained sampling campaigns.

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