Our current understanding of atmospheric mercury lacks fundamental details. Gas phase elemental mercury (Hg°) was measured aboard the NASA DC-8 research aircraft during the Intercontinental Chemical Transport Experiment-Phase B (INTEX-B) conducted in spring 2006 over the North Pacific. Our data confirm efficient chemical cycling of Hg° in the tropopause region and show that it is strongly anti-correlated with O3 there, yielding a tropospheric-stratospheric mixing curve of ∼−0.20 ppqv Hg°/ppbv O3. In addition, we found frequent total depletion of Hg° in upper tropospheric (8–12 km) air masses impacted by stratospheric influence. When O3 mixing ratios were >300 ppbv, Hg° was rarely detected. It appears that in the tropopause and stratosphere Hg° is oxidized on the order of days followed by heterogeneous transformation to particulate mercury. These processes constitute an effective chemical sink for Hg° at the top of the troposphere, which may recycle mercury back to the gas phase as stratospheric aerosols are eventually dispersed into the troposphere.

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Geophysical Research Letters



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Copyright 2007 by the American Geophysical Union.