Articles | Volume 13, issue 20
Research article
30 Oct 2013
Research article |  | 30 Oct 2013

Atmospheric mercury concentration and chemical speciation at a rural site in Beijing, China: implications of mercury emission sources

L. Zhang, S. X. Wang, L. Wang, and J. M. Hao

Abstract. Continuous measurements of atmospheric mercury concentration and speciation play a key role in identifying mercury sources and its behavior in the atmosphere. In this study, speciated atmospheric mercury including gaseous elemental mercury (GEM), reactive gaseous mercury (RGM) and particle-bound mercury (PBM) were continuously measured at Miyun, a rural site in Beijing, China, from December 2008 to November 2009. The average GEM, RGM and PBM concentrations were found to be 3.22 ± 1.74, 10.1 ± 18.8 and 98.2 ± 112.7 pg m−3, respectively, about 2–20 times higher than the background concentration of the Northern Hemisphere. The results indicated that atmospheric mercury concentrations in northern China were highly affected by anthropogenic emissions. The atmospheric mercury showed obvious seasonal variations, with the highest seasonal average GEM concentration in summer (3.48 ng m−3) and the lowest value in winter (2.66 ng m−3). In autumn and winter a diurnal variation of GEM was observed, with peak levels in the late afternoon till midnight. Most of the high RGM concentration values occurred in the afternoon of all seasons due to the higher oxidation. The PBM concentration was higher in early morning of all seasons because of the the temperature inversion that increases in depth as the night proceeds. The ratio of GEM to CO indicates that residential boilers play an important role in the elevation of GEM in winter. The ratio of RGM to O3 could be an indicator of the contribution of local primary sources. The ratio of PBM to PM2.5 reveals that the air mass from the east and southwest of the site in spring and summer carries more atmospheric mercury. The HYSPLIT back-trajectory analysis indicated that the monitoring site is affected by local, regional and interregional sources simultaneously during heavy pollution episodes. The results from the potential source contribution function (PSCF) model indicate that the atmospheric transport predominantly from the northwest contributes to the elevated atmospheric mercury in winter and autumn, while the North China Plain (NCP) region and the northern part of the Yangtze River Delta (YRD) region are the major source areas for mercury pollution in spring and summer.

Final-revised paper