Determining atmospheric deposition rates of mercury and other contaminants using lake sediment cores requires a quantitative understanding of sediment focusing. Here we present a novel approach that solves mass-balance equations for two cores algebraically to estimate contaminant contributions to sediment from direct atmospheric fallout and from watershed and in-lake focusing. The model is applied to excess 210Pb and Hg in cores from Hobbs Lake, a high-altitude lake in Wyoming. Model results for excess 210Pb are consistent with estimates of fallout and focusing factors computed using excess 210Pb burdens in lake cores and soil cores from the watershed and model results for Hg fallout are consistent with fallout estimated using the soil-core-based 210Pb focusing factors. The lake cores indicate small increases in mercury deposition beginning in the late 1800s and large increases after 1940, with the maximum at the tops of the cores of 16-20 ??g/m 2year. These results suggest that global Hg emissions and possibly regional emissions in the western United States are affecting the north-central Rocky Mountains. Hg fallout estimates are generally consistent with fallout reported from an ice core from the nearby Upper Fremont Glacier, but with several notable differences. The model might not work for lakes with complex geometries and multiple sediment inputs, but for lakes with simple geometries, like Hobbs, it can provide a quantitative approach for evaluating sediment focusing and estimating contaminant fallout.
Additional publication details
Dual-core mass-balance approach for evaluating mercury and210Pb atmospheric fallout and focusing to lakes