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Authors: Giammanco, S.* 
Kotnik, J.* 
Fajon, V.* 
Title: Mercury emissions in volcanic gases from Mt. Etna, Italy.
Issue Date: 17-Aug-2008
Keywords: mercury gas
Mt. Etna
Subject Classification04. Solid Earth::04.08. Volcanology::04.08.01. Gases 
Abstract: Mercury is a global pollutant that can be found in different forms and different ecosystems. Special attention has recently been devoted to mercury due to its high chemical reactivity, its global spreading, its biogeochemical cycling, its transformations in the environment, its ability for biomagnification and its high toxicity. Beside anthropogenic sources, mercury can also be of natural origin. Among natural Hg sources, volcanoes can be important. Volcanic gas emissions may be rich in elemental gaseous mercury (Hg0), reactive gaseous mercury (HgII) and other mercury forms. Mt. Etna (Sicily, Italy) is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and one of the largest contributors of magmatic volatiles to the environment; consequently, we tried to estimate its contribution to regional and global Hg budgets and tested the eligibility of Hg as a tool for volcano monitoring. Mercury concentrations have been measured on Mt. Etna during several campaigns carried out between 2004 and 2007 in fumaroles, mofettes and diffuse degassing areas, as well as in the air inside and across the volcanic plume. In addition, Hg fluxes have been measured by flux chamber technique. Mercury concentrations measured in air below the volcanic plume in November 2004 ranged between 4 and 30 ng m-3 at low altitude, and between 65 and 132 ng m-3 close to the summit craters. A profile of Hg in the air below the volcanic plume carried out on helicopter on November 2006 showed Hg concentrations up to 60 ng m-3. Hg contents in fumarole gases reached 64,200 ng m-3, and soil gas Hg showed temporal variations that reached the highest values (up to 240 ng m-3) in fall 2005. The highest Hg fluxes were measured in bubbling gas from mud volcanoes at the SW foot of Etna, reaching 1300 ng m-2 h-1. Mercury contents were found highly correlated both with water/mud temperature at mud volcanoes and with concurrent soil CO2 effluxes. In the latter case, hydrothermal gases showed higher values and a higher correlation than “cold”gases. Our results, therefore, look promising for the use of mercury in geochemical monitoring of volcanic activity.
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