skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: Permafrost Stores a Globally Significant Amount of Mercury

Abstract

Changing climate in northern regions is causing permafrost to thaw with major implications for the global mercury (Hg) cycle. We estimated Hg in permafrost regions based on in situ measurements of sediment total mercury (STHg), soil organic carbon (SOC), and the Hg to carbon ratio (R HgC) combined with maps of soil carbon. We measured a median STHg of 43 ± 30 ng Hg g soil −1 and a median R HgC of 1.6 ± 0.9 μg Hg g C −1, consistent with published results of STHg for tundra soils and 11,000 measurements from 4,926 temperate, nonpermafrost sites in North America and Eurasia. We estimate that the Northern Hemisphere permafrost regions contain 1,656 ± 962 Gg Hg, of which 793 ± 461 Gg Hg is frozen in permafrost. Permafrost soils store nearly twice as much Hg as all other soils, the ocean, and the atmosphere combined, and this Hg is vulnerable to release as permafrost thaws over the next century. Existing estimates greatly underestimate Hg in permafrost soils, indicating a need to reevaluate the role of the Arctic regions in the global Hg cycle.

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [2]; ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [3];  [4]; ORCiD logo [5]; ORCiD logo [6]; ORCiD logo [7]; ORCiD logo [3]; ORCiD logo [8]; ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [9]; ORCiD logo [1];  [10]; ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [1]; ORCiD logo [9]
  1. U.S. Geological Survey, Boulder, CO (United States)
  2. Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO (United States)
  3. Mercury Research Lab., Middleton, WI (United States)
  4. Environmental Service Lab., Broomfield, CO (United States)
  5. Univ. of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK (United States)
  6. Stockholm Univ. (Sweden)
  7. Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
  8. Chinese Univ. of Hong Kong (CUHK), Shatin (Hong Kong)
  9. Lanzhou Univ. (China)
  10. Galmont Consulting, Chicago, IL (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
National Science Foundation (NSF); USDOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)
OSTI Identifier:
1512739
Report Number(s):
LA-UR-17-23053
Journal ID: ISSN 0094-8276
Grant/Contract Number:  
89233218CNA000001
Resource Type:
Journal Article: Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Geophysical Research Letters
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 45; Journal Issue: 3; Journal ID: ISSN 0094-8276
Publisher:
American Geophysical Union
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
Earth Sciences; permafrost; mercury; storage; thawing

Citation Formats

Schuster, Paul F., Schaefer, Kevin M., Aiken, George R., Antweiler, Ronald C., Dewild, John F., Gryziec, Joshua D., Gusmeroli, Alessio, Hugelius, Gustaf, Jafarov, Elchin, Krabbenhoft, David P., Liu, Lin, Herman‐Mercer, Nicole, Mu, Cuicui, Roth, David A., Schaefer, Tim, Striegl, Robert G., Wickland, Kimberly P., and Zhang, Tingjun. Permafrost Stores a Globally Significant Amount of Mercury. United States: N. p., 2018. Web. doi:10.1002/2017GL075571.
Schuster, Paul F., Schaefer, Kevin M., Aiken, George R., Antweiler, Ronald C., Dewild, John F., Gryziec, Joshua D., Gusmeroli, Alessio, Hugelius, Gustaf, Jafarov, Elchin, Krabbenhoft, David P., Liu, Lin, Herman‐Mercer, Nicole, Mu, Cuicui, Roth, David A., Schaefer, Tim, Striegl, Robert G., Wickland, Kimberly P., & Zhang, Tingjun. Permafrost Stores a Globally Significant Amount of Mercury. United States. doi:10.1002/2017GL075571.
Schuster, Paul F., Schaefer, Kevin M., Aiken, George R., Antweiler, Ronald C., Dewild, John F., Gryziec, Joshua D., Gusmeroli, Alessio, Hugelius, Gustaf, Jafarov, Elchin, Krabbenhoft, David P., Liu, Lin, Herman‐Mercer, Nicole, Mu, Cuicui, Roth, David A., Schaefer, Tim, Striegl, Robert G., Wickland, Kimberly P., and Zhang, Tingjun. Mon . "Permafrost Stores a Globally Significant Amount of Mercury". United States. doi:10.1002/2017GL075571. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1512739.
@article{osti_1512739,
title = {Permafrost Stores a Globally Significant Amount of Mercury},
author = {Schuster, Paul F. and Schaefer, Kevin M. and Aiken, George R. and Antweiler, Ronald C. and Dewild, John F. and Gryziec, Joshua D. and Gusmeroli, Alessio and Hugelius, Gustaf and Jafarov, Elchin and Krabbenhoft, David P. and Liu, Lin and Herman‐Mercer, Nicole and Mu, Cuicui and Roth, David A. and Schaefer, Tim and Striegl, Robert G. and Wickland, Kimberly P. and Zhang, Tingjun},
abstractNote = {Changing climate in northern regions is causing permafrost to thaw with major implications for the global mercury (Hg) cycle. We estimated Hg in permafrost regions based on in situ measurements of sediment total mercury (STHg), soil organic carbon (SOC), and the Hg to carbon ratio (RHgC) combined with maps of soil carbon. We measured a median STHg of 43 ± 30 ng Hg g soil−1 and a median RHgC of 1.6 ± 0.9 μg Hg g C−1, consistent with published results of STHg for tundra soils and 11,000 measurements from 4,926 temperate, nonpermafrost sites in North America and Eurasia. We estimate that the Northern Hemisphere permafrost regions contain 1,656 ± 962 Gg Hg, of which 793 ± 461 Gg Hg is frozen in permafrost. Permafrost soils store nearly twice as much Hg as all other soils, the ocean, and the atmosphere combined, and this Hg is vulnerable to release as permafrost thaws over the next century. Existing estimates greatly underestimate Hg in permafrost soils, indicating a need to reevaluate the role of the Arctic regions in the global Hg cycle.},
doi = {10.1002/2017GL075571},
journal = {Geophysical Research Letters},
issn = {0094-8276},
number = 3,
volume = 45,
place = {United States},
year = {2018},
month = {2}
}

Journal Article:
Free Publicly Available Full Text
Publisher's Version of Record

Save / Share: