Continental origin and industrial sources of trace metals in the Northwest Atlantic troposphere

A. Veron*, T. M. Church, C. C. Patterson, Y. Erel, J. T. Merrill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Trace metals (Mn, Fe, Ni, Cu, Zn, Cd, Pb and stable lead isotopes) have been analyzed in precipitation and total aerosols collected in the northwest Atlantic troposphere in April and November 1989. According to stable lead isotope signatures we encountered two main air mass sources, Mediterranean easterlies (206Pb/207Pb=1.131) and US westerlies (206Pb/207Pb=1.195-1.205). The phasing out of leaded gasoline has been invoked to explain the decrease of the 206Pb/207Pb ratios from 1.22 to 1.20 for the past 10 years in North America. Based on trajectory analyses, intermediate 206Pb/207Pb ratios are explained by a mixing of pure US westerlies with Canadian air masses (206Pb/207Pb=1.190-1.195) or Mediterranean air masses (206Pb/207Pb=1.18-1.19). Isentropic trajectories are very useful in explaining the variability of trace metal concentrations, a result of the fluctuating transport range of anthropogenic aerosols to remote marine areas of the North Atlantic. Lead concentrations appear to be closely correlated to the air mass transport patterns as defined from the meteorological analyses. For instance oceanic air masses transported over remote marine areas for more than three days were characterized by lead concentrations 2 to 10 times lower (Pb=0.5 to 2 ng/scm) than coastal air masses (Pb=3 to 10 ng/scm). Anthropogenic trace metal concentrations are generally in good agreement with the air mass signatures which display Pb and Cu, Ni, Zn concentrations higher than 2 and 10 ng/scm respectively in aerosol samples for the US source. Trace metal elemental ratios and soil enrichment factors were used to define industrial sources. Aerosol originating from the US exhibits the distinct industrial signature of Cu/Ni production and coal-oil combustion, while steel metallurgy could account for more than 50% of the overall Mn input into the Northwest Atlantic ocean.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)339-351
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Atmospheric Chemistry
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Apr 1992
Externally publishedYes


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