The Air-Coastal Sea Chemical Exchange: A Case Study on the New Jersey Coast

Abstract

The coastal marine atmosphere adjacent to large urban and industrial centers is in general strongly impacted by pollution emissions, resulting in high loading of pollutants in the ambient air. Among the airborne substances are certain trace elements from a variety of emission sources that can serve as micronutrients to marine organisms in coastal waters. High concentrations of such elements in coastal air can result in enhanced air-to-sea deposition fluxes to coastal waters. They could also be transported over the open ocean, affecting the composition of the remote marine atmosphere and then ocean ecosystems. To provide better understanding of the extent of air-to-sea deposition processes on the New Jersey coast, a heavily polluted coastal region on the US East Coast, a synthesis of observation data was carried out for selected trace elements, including Fe, Cd, Cr and Cu, derived from measurements of both size-segregated and bulk aerosol particles, as well as precipitation around the New Jersey coast. The atmospheric input of Hg was also estimated based on measurement data. Results indicated that the total deposition fluxes of most trace elements were higher in Northern coastal NJ compared to Southern coastal NJ, reflecting the differences in the source strengths of these element emissions between the two coastal regions. Dry deposition processes were more significant for common dust-derived elements, particularly Fe and Al, compared with their wet deposition fluxes. However, the processes of precipitation scavenging appeared to be more important for the elements that were often enriched in fine particles including Zn, Cu, Pb and Ni. The removal of Hg from the ambient air was overwhelmingly dominated by atmospheric wet deposition. In the future, atmospheric measurements at more sites on the NJ coast should be performed simultaneously to reduce the spatial and temporal uncertainties associated with atmospheric deposition fluxes estimated in this study.

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Acknowledgments

YG was grateful to Robert Mason for help with Hg sampling and analyses. Guojie Xu and Tianyi Xu participated in data analysis. The manuscript was significantly improved by constructive comments from two anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Yuan Gao.

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Gao, Y., Mukherjee, P. & Jusino-Atresino, R. The Air-Coastal Sea Chemical Exchange: A Case Study on the New Jersey Coast. Aquat Geochem 22, 275–289 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10498-015-9285-8

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Keywords

  • Atmospheric deposition
  • Trace elements
  • Coastal regions
  • Atmospheric pollution