AsianScientist (Aug. 25, 2016) – The dark soot particles that are thought to accelerate the melting of Himalayan and Tibetan glaciers come largely from fossil fuel combustion in China and the North Indian sub-continent, according to a study published in Nature Communications.
Many of the glaciers within the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau are beginning to thin, causing grave concern for the billions of people who depend upon the seasonal melt water. Model simulations suggest that this thinning is mainly due to the presence of black carbon aerosols, or soot, which radiate heat to warm the air and ice surface.
Professor Kang Shichang, from the Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and colleagues used a dual-carbon-isotope fingerprinting technique to identify the chemical signature of black carbon particles. This technique enables the authors to distinguish between source type, whether it is biomass or fossil fuels, and source region.
The signature of the samples recovered from the northern Tibetan Plateau indicates that the black carbon is predominantly from Chinese fossil fuel sources, accounting for around 66 percent of the samples. By contrast, black carbon particles sampled from the Himalayas were equally composed of biomass and of fossil fuel sources from the Indo-Gangetic Plain, a region in the North Indian sub-continent.
Identifying the source of these particles could provide improved guidance for effective pollution-mitigating action, the researchers say.
The article can be found at: Li et al. (2016) Sources of Black Carbon to the Himalayan–Tibetan Plateau Glaciers.
Source: Nature Communications; Photo: Shutterstock.
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