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Emissions of gaseous mercury from biomass burning in South America in 2005 observed during CARIBIC flights

Abstract

Plumes of biomass burning effluents were observed during CARIBIC flights between São Paulo and Santiago de Chile on August 31 and October 5, 2005, as well as during the last part of the flight from Frankfurt to São Paulo on October 4, 2005. Total gaseous mercury (TGM) correlated with CO on August 31 and October 4 yielding a TGM/CO emission ratio of (1.2 ± 0.2) × 10−7 and (2.4 ± 1.0) × 10−7 mol/mol, respectively. No significant TGM/CO correlation was observed on October 5 probably because of variable background concentrations of both gases. The TGM/CO emission ratios observed here over South America fall within the rather narrow range of (0.67–2.4) × 10−7 mol/mol reported hitherto for sites geographically as different as South Africa, Canada, and the U.S.A. A total average emission of 437 Tg CO/yr from biomass burning over the years 1996–2000 implies an average TGM emission of 210–750 t/yr from biomass burning, representing 3–11% of all mercury emissions. TGM emissions from biomass burning are likely to be larger than anthropogenic emissions in the southern hemisphere during the burning season in August–October.
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