Mercury is a pollutant of global concern, especially in the Arctic, where high levels are found in biota despite its remote location. Mercury is transported to the Arctic via atmospheric, oceanic and riverine long-range pathways, where it accumulates in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. While present-day mercury deposition in the Arctic from natural and anthropogenic emissions is extensively studied, the control of past climate changes on natural mercury variability remains unknown. Here we present an Arctic mercury record covering the Last Glacial Termination to the early Holocene epoch (15.7–9.0 thousand years before 2000 ce), collected as part of the East Greenland Ice-Core Project. We find a threefold increase in mercury depositional fluxes from the Last Glacial Termination into the early Holocene, which coincided with abrupt regional climate warming. Atmospheric chemistry modelling, combined with available sea-ice proxies, indicates that oceanic mercury evaporation and atmospheric bromine drove the increase in mercury flux during this climatic transition. Our results suggest that environmental changes associated with climate warming may contribute to increasing mercury levels in Arctic ecosystems.
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EGRIP ice-core data are available in the Zenodo dataset (https://zenodo.org/record/7754371) and as Supplementary Data to this article.
All files related to the box model are available at the following link: https://github.com/deliasegato1/box_model_EGRIP_Hg.git.
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EGRIP is directed and organized by the Centre for Ice and Climate at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen. It is supported by funding agencies and institutions in Denmark (A. P. Møller Foundation, University of Copenhagen), USA (US National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs), Germany (Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research), Japan (National Institute of Polar Research and Arctic Challenge for Sustainability), Norway (University of Bergen and Trond Mohn Foundation), Switzerland (Swiss National Science Foundation), France (French Polar Institute Paul-Emile Victor, Institute for Geosciences and Environmental research), Canada (University of Manitoba) and China (Chinese Academy of Sciences and Beijing Normal University). A.S. acknowledges the ‘Programma di Ricerca in Artico’ (PRA, project number PRA2019-0011, Sentinel) for supporting this work. A.S.-L. received funding from the European Research Council Executive Agency under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (project ERC-2016-COG 726349 CLIMAHAL). This work represents a contribution to CSIC Thematic Interdisciplinary Platform PTI POLARCSIC. A.S.M. acknowledges the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), funded by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MOES), Government of India (GOI). F.W. received funding from the Canada Research Chairs Program. T.E., C.M.J. and C.Z. acknowledge the long-term support of ice-core research by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) under the project numbers 200020_172506, 200020B_200328 and 20FI21_164190 as well as the Oeschger Center for Climate Change Research. H.A.K. received funding from the DFF Inge Lehmann grant 1131-00007B ‘Holocene sea ice variability in the Arctic’. ELGA LabWater, High Wycombe, UK, supplied the pure-water system used in this study.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Supplementary Figs. 1–7, Tables 1–4 and Discussion.
Hg, Br, Na and Ca concentrations in the EGRIP ice core.
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Segato, D., Saiz-Lopez, A., Mahajan, A.S. et al. Arctic mercury flux increased through the Last Glacial Termination with a warming climate. Nat. Geosci. 16, 439–445 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-023-01172-9
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