Mercury in the Arctic

Air Measurements of Mercury at Alert, Nunavut and Little Fox Lake, Yukon, Mercury in the Air in Nunavut and Yukon.

Mercury in the Arctic
Alexandra Steffen (Environment and Climate Change Canada)
Oct 12, 2023

Researchers at the Little Fox Lake, Yukon, and Alert, Nunavut site mentioned in the previous project are also studying mercury in the Arctic and subarctic. Mercury is toxic, does not break down in the environment, and can build up in living things. In its vapour form, mercury can be carried long distances on wind currents, staying in the atmosphere for long periods of time (

Researchers are examining levels of mercury in the Arctic and subarctic air. Collected data is used to try and determine:

  • Changes in mercury levels in the Canadian Arctic over time
  • What causes mercury level changes
  • How climate change influences mercury contamination in the Arctic
  • How mercury is brought into the Arctic
  • How much falls from the air to the ground

Results so far show that mercury levels in the air are decreasing in the Eastern High Arctic, but increasing in the Western Arctic.

Learning where the mercury comes from helps Canada implement national and international policies controlling the release of mercury worldwide, and supports efforts to reduce mercury transmission into Canada.