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For developing low-wattage high intensity discharge (HID) lamps, a better understanding of the relatively unexplored nonequilibrium phenomena is essential. This needs interpretation of diagnostic results by methods free from equilibrium assumptions. In this paper, the atomic temperature is determined from the simulation of a quasistatic broadened resonance line by distinguishing between atomic temperature and excitation temperature in the equation of radiative transfer. The proposed method is applied to the red wing of the resonance mercury line 254 nm emitted from a HID lamp working on ac. The experimental results show severe deviation from local thermodynamic equilibrium. More than one thousand degrees difference was obtained between atomic and electron temperatures at the maximum current phase.