Articles | Volume 13, issue 3
Research article
12 Feb 2016
Research article |  | 12 Feb 2016

Soluble trace metals in aerosols over the tropical south-east Pacific offshore of Peru

A. R. Baker, M. Thomas, H. W. Bange, and E. Plasencia Sánchez

Abstract. Bulk aerosol samples collected during cruise M91 of FS Meteor off the coast of Peru in December 2012 were analysed for their soluble trace metal (Fe, Al, Mn, Ti, Zn, V, Ni, Cu, Co, Cd, Pb, Th) and major ion (including NO3 and NH4+) content. These data are among the first recorded for trace metals in this relatively poorly studied region of the global marine atmosphere. To the north of  ∼  13° S, the concentrations of several elements (Fe, Ti, Zn, V, Ni, Pb) appear to be related to distance from the coast. At the south of the transect ( ∼  15–16° S), elevated concentrations of Fe, Cu, Co, and Ni were observed, and we calculated dry deposition fluxes of soluble Cu approximately an order of magnitude higher than a recent model-based estimate of total Cu deposition to the region. The model did not take account of emissions from the large smelting facilities in the south of Peru and northern Chile, and our results may indicate that these facilities constitute an important source of trace metals to the region. Calculated dry deposition fluxes (3370–17800 and 16–107 nmol m−2 d−1 for inorganic nitrogen and soluble Fe respectively) indicated that atmospheric input to the waters of the Peru upwelling system contains an excess of Fe over N, with respect to phytoplankton requirements. This may be significant as primary production in these waters has been reported to be limited by Fe availability, but atmospheric deposition is unlikely to be the dominant source of Fe to the system.

Short summary
Concentrations of major ions and trace metals were measured in aerosols off the coast of Peru in December 2012. A few trace metals (iron, copper, nickel, and cobalt) had anomalously high concentrations, which may be associated with industrial metal smelting activities in the region. The atmosphere appears to supply an excess of iron (relative to atmospheric nitrogen supply) to the phytoplankton community of the Peruvian upwelling system.
Final-revised paper