Distribution of atmospheric mercury in northern Southeast Asia and South China Sea during Dongsha Experiment

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Northern South China Sea (SCS) is adjacent to major atmospheric mercury (Hg) emission source regions; however, studies concerning regional atmospheric Hg distribution and cycling are very limited. Accordingly, measurements of atmospheric Hg were conducted in March and April during the 2010 Dongsha Experiment to study its spatial and temporal distribution. Atmospheric Hg was measured at Hengchun and Dongsha Island (Taiwan), Da Nang (Vietnam), Chiang Mai (Thailand) and over the northern SCS. Atmospheric Hg concentrations ranged between 1.54 and 6.83ngm-3, mostly higher than the Northern Hemisphere background value. Regional wind fields and backward trajectories indicated that the atmospheric Hg concentrations over northern SCS should principally reflect the export of the East Asian Hg emissions by northeast monsoon. However, significantly elevated Hg concentrations were always observed at Da Nang, possibly due to the influence of local Hg emissions. Chiang Mai is located in the intense biomass burning region in northern Thailand. Therefore, atmospheric Hg concentrations at Chiang Mai reflected the influence of regional biomass burning Hg emissions. Two dust storms were encountered at Dongsha Island, one on March 16 and the other on March 21, with atmospheric Hg enhancements. Compared with the 2008 summer values, elevated Hg levels were observed at Dongsha Island in the spring of 2010. Summer air masses were mainly from the deep SCS, representing relatively clean marine air. On the other hand, air masses were from the north in spring, passing eastern China or Taiwan prior to reaching Dongsha Island. Results of this research thus demonstrated the transport of atmospheric Hg from the East Asian continent to northern SCS by regional monsoon activity in spring, but special events, such as biomass burning and dust storms, can also cause enhancements of ambient Hg levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-183
Number of pages10
JournalAtmospheric Environment
StatePublished - Oct 2013


  • Biomass burning
  • Dongsha Island
  • Dust storm
  • Indochina Peninsula


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