Correlation of gravestone decay and air quality 1960–2010

H. D. Mooers, M. J. Carlson, R. M. Harrison, R. J. Inkpen, S. Loeffler

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Evaluation of spatial and temporal variability in surface recession of lead-lettered Carrara marble gravestones provides a quantitative measure of acid flux to the stone surfaces and is closely related to local land use and air quality. Correlation of stone decay, land use, and air quality for the period after 1960 when reliable estimates of atmospheric pollution are available is evaluated. Gravestone decay and SO2 measurements are interpolated spatially using deterministic and geostatistical techniques. A general lack of spatial correlation was identified and therefore a land-use-based technique for correlation of stone decay and air quality is employed. Decadally averaged stone decay is highly correlated with land use averaged spatially over an optimum radius of ≈7 km even though air quality, determined by records from the UK monitoring network, is not highly correlated with gravestone decay. The relationships among stone decay, air-quality, and land use is complicated by the relatively low spatial density of both gravestone decay and air quality data and the fact that air quality data is available only as annual averages and therefore seasonal dependence cannot be evaluated. However, acid deposition calculated from gravestone decay suggests that the deposition efficiency of SO2 has increased appreciably since 1980 indicating an increase in the SO2 oxidation process possibly related to reactions with ammonia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-171
JournalAtmospheric Environment
Early online date20 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2017


  • Gravestone decay
  • acid deposition
  • air quality
  • land use, West Midlands
  • United Kingdom, SO2 deposition velocity


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