Elements and inorganic ions as source tracers in recent Greenland snow


Atmospheric transport of aerosols leads to deposition of impurities in snow, even in areas of the Arctic as remote as Greenland. Major ions (e.g. Na+, Ca2+, NH4+, K+, SO42−) are frequently used as tracers for common aerosol sources (e.g. sea spray, dust, biomass burning, anthropogenic emissions). Trace element data can supplement tracer ion data by providing additional information about sources. Although many studies have considered either trace elements or major ions, few have reported both. This study determined total and water-soluble concentrations of 31 elements (Al, As, Ca, Cd, Ce, Co, Cr, Dy, Eu, Fe, Gd, K, La, Mg, Mn, Na, Nb, Nd, Pb, Pr, S, Sb, Si, Sm, Sn, Sr, Ti, V, U, Y, Zn) in shallow snow pits at 22 sampling sites in Greenland, along a transect from Summit Station to sites in the northwest. Black carbon(BC) and inorganic ions were measured in colocated samples. Sodium, which is typically used as a tracer of sea spray, did not appear to have any non-marine sources. The rare earth elements, alkaline earth elements (Mg, Ca, Sr), and other crustal elements (Fe, Si, Ti, V) were not enriched above crustal abundances relative to Al, indicating that these elements are primarily dust sourced. Calculated ratios of non-sea salt Ca (nssCa) to estimated dust mass affirm the use of nssCa as a dust tracer, but suggest up to 50% uncertainty in that estimate in the absence of other crustal element data. Crustal enrichment factors indicated that As, Cd, Pb, non-sea-salt S, Sb, Sn, and Zn were enriched in these samples, likely by anthropogenic sources. Principal component analysis indicated more than one crustal factor, and a variety of factors related to anthropogenically enriched elements. Analysis of trace elements alongside major tracer ions does not change interpretation of ion-based source attribution for sources that are well-characterized by ions, but is valuable for assessing uncertainty in source attribution and identifying sources not represented by major ions.


Earth Systems Research Center

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Atmospheric Environment



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