Twenty years of precipitation-chemistry data from the National Atmospheric Deposition Program site at El Verde, Puerto Rico, demonstrate that three major sources control the composition of solutes in rain in eastern Puerto Rico. In order of importance, these sources are marine salts, temperate contamination from the Northern Hemisphere, and Sahara Desert dust. Marine salts are a source of roughly 82 percent of the ionic charge in precipitation; marine salt inputs are greatest in January. Evaluation of 15 years of U.S. Geological Survey data for four watersheds in eastern Puerto Rico suggests that large storms, including hurricanes, are associated with exceptionally high chloride concentrations in stream waters. Some of these storms were missed in sampling by the National Atmospheric Deposition Program, and therefore its data on the marine contribution likely underestimate chloride. The marine contribution is a weak source of acidity. Temperate contamination contributes about 10 percent of the ionic charge in precipitation; contaminants are primarily nitrate, ammonia, and sulfate derived from various manmade and natural sources. Peak deposition of temperate contaminants is during January, April, and May, months in which strong weather fronts arrive from the north. Temperate contamination, a strong source of acidity, is the only component that is increasing through time. Sahara Desert dust provides 5 percent of the ionic charge in precipitation; it is strongly seasonal, peaking in June and July during times of maximum dust transport from the Sahara and sub-Saharan regions. This dust contributes, on average, enough alkalinity to neutralize the acidity in June and July rains.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Atmospheric inputs to watersheds of the Luquillo Mountains in eastern Puerto Rico: Chapter D in Water quality and landscape processes of four watersheds in eastern Puerto Rico