Rapid oxidation of mercury (Hg) at volcanic vents: Insights from high temperature thermodynamic models of Mt Etna's emissions

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  • R.S. Martin
  • M.L.I. Witt
  • D.M. Pyle
  • T.A. Mather
  • E. Bagnato
  • S. Calabrese

Colleges, School and Institutes


A major uncertainty regarding the environmental impacts of volcanic Hg is the extent to which Hg is deposited locally or transported globally. An important control on dispersion and deposition is the oxidation state of Hg compounds: Hg(0) is an inert, insoluble gas, while Hg(II) occurs as reactive gases or in particles, which deposit rapidly and proximally, near the volcanic vent. Using a new high temperature thermodynamic model, we show that although Hg in Etna's magmatic gases is almost entirely Hg(0) (i.e., gaseous elemental mercury), significant quantities of Hg(II) are likely formed at Etna's vents as gaseous HgCl, when magmatic gases are cooled and oxidised by atmospheric gases. These results contrast with an earlier model study and allow us to explain recent measurements of Hg speciation at the crater rim of Etna without invoking rapid (


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-286
Number of pages8
JournalChemical Geology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2011