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Atmosphere 2014, 5(2), 399-419;

Seasonal and Diurnal Variations of Total Gaseous Mercury in Urban Houston, TX, USA

Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204, USA
Portnoy Environmental Incorporation, Houston, TX 77043, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 10 March 2014 / Revised: 22 April 2014 / Accepted: 28 April 2014 / Published: 30 May 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Atmospheric Mercury)
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Total gaseous mercury (THg) observations in urban Houston, over the period from August 2011 to October 2012, were analyzed for their seasonal and diurnal characteristics. Our continuous measurements found that the median level of THg was 172 parts per quadrillion by volume (ppqv), consistent with the current global background level. The seasonal variation showed that the highest median THg mixing ratios occurred in summer and the lowest ones in winter. This seasonal pattern was closely related to the frequency of THg episodes, energy production/consumption and precipitation in the area. The diurnal variations of THg exhibited a pattern where THg accumulated overnight and reached its maximum level right before sunrise, followed by a rapid decrease after sunrise. This pattern was clearly influenced by planetary boundary layer (PBL) height and horizontal winds, including the complex sea breeze system in the Houston area. A predominant feature of THg in the Houston area was the frequent occurrence of large THg spikes. Highly concentrated pollution plumes revealed that mixing ratios of THg were related to not only the combustion tracers CO, CO2, and NO, but also CH4 which is presumably released from oil and natural gas operations, landfills and waste treatment. Many THg episodes occurred simultaneously with peaks in CO, CO2, CH4, NOx, and/or SO2, suggesting possible contributions from similar sources with multi-source types. Our measurements revealed that the mixing ratios and variability of THg were primarily controlled by nearby mercury sources. View Full-Text
Keywords: mercury; total gaseous mercury; urban air quality; emission inventories mercury; total gaseous mercury; urban air quality; emission inventories

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Lan, X.; Talbot, R.; Laine, P.; Lefer, B.; Flynn, J.; Torres, A. Seasonal and Diurnal Variations of Total Gaseous Mercury in Urban Houston, TX, USA. Atmosphere 2014, 5, 399-419.

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