An analysis of total gaseous mercury (TGM) concentrations across the UK from a rural sampling network
Total gaseous mercury was collected at ten sites, which comprise part of the UK rural heavy metals monitoring network, between 2005 and 2008. Using the gold amalgam technique to capture total gaseous mercury, samples were analysed using a Tekran 2537A mercury vapour analyser. The data showed no upward or downward trend in atmospheric mercury concentrations over the period, with 4 year average concentrations between 1.3 and 1.9 ng m−3, which are in line with other studies' observed northern hemispheric background concentrations of between 1.5 and 1.7 ng m−3. Using data from nine of the sites, we were able to show seasonality within the data and through kriging we were able to interpolate the TGM concentrations over the UK, revealing a south-east to north-west declining concentration gradient. Using continuous speciated mercury measurements from one of the network sites, we show through wind sector analysis and air-mass back trajectories that this spatial trend is likely to be due to air masses moving over the UK from continental Europe on easterly winds. The levels of TGM recorded in the south-east of the UK also more closely match observed background TGM levels on the continent, which could indicate that the TGM concentrations from the north of the UK are a better reflection of the true North Atlantic atmospheric mercury background level.