Articles | Volume 10, issue 10
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 10, 4583–4596, 2010

Special issue: Atmospheric brown cloud in the Himalayas

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 10, 4583–4596, 2010

  18 May 2010

18 May 2010

Chemical composition of PM10 and PM1 at the high-altitude Himalayan station Nepal Climate Observatory-Pyramid (NCO-P) (5079 m a.s.l.)

S. Decesari1, M. C. Facchini1, C. Carbone1, L. Giulianelli1, M. Rinaldi1, E. Finessi1, S. Fuzzi1, A. Marinoni1, P. Cristofanelli1, R. Duchi1, P. Bonasoni1, E. Vuillermoz2, J. Cozic3, J. L. Jaffrezo3, and P. Laj3 S. Decesari et al.
  • 1Institute for Atmospheric Sciences and Climate (ISAC), CNR, Bologna, Italy
  • 2Ev-K2-CNR Committee, Bergamo, Italy
  • 3Laboratoire de Glaciologie et Géophysique de l'Environnement (LGGE), CNRS/University of Grenoble, Grenoble, France

Abstract. We report chemical composition data for PM10 and PM1 from the Nepal Climate Observatory-Pyramid (NCO-P), the world's highest aerosol observatory, located at 5079 m a.s.l. at the foothills of Mt. Everest. Despite its high altitude, the average PM10 mass apportioned by the chemical analyses is of the order of 6 μg m−3 (i.e., 10 μg/scm), with almost a half of this mass accounted for by organic matter, elemental carbon (EC) and inorganic ions, the rest being mineral dust. Organic matter, in particular, accounted for by 2.0 μg m−3 (i.e., 3.6 μg/scm) on a yearly basis, and it is by far the major PM10 component beside mineral oxides. Non-negligible concentrations of EC were also observed (0.36 μg/scm), confirming that light-absorbing aerosol produced from combustion sources can be efficiently transported up the altitudes of Himalayan glaciers. The concentrations of carbonaceous and ionic aerosols follow a common time trend with a maximum in the premonsoon season, a minimum during the monsoon and a slow recovery during the postmonsoon and dry seasons, which is the same phenomenology observed for other Nepalese Himalayan sites in previous studies. Such seasonal cycle can be explained by the seasonal variations of dry and moist convection and of wet scavenging processes characterizing the climate of north Indian subcontinent. We document the effect of orographic transport of carbonaceous and sulphate particles upslope the Himalayas, showing that the valley breeze circulation, which is almost permanently active during the out-of-monsoon season, greatly impacts the chemical composition of PM10 and PM1 in the high Himalayas and provides an efficient mechanism for bringing anthropogenic aerosols into the Asian upper troposphere (>5000 m a.s.l.). The concentrations of mineral dust are impacted to a smaller extent by valley breezes and follow a unique seasonal cycle which suggest multiple source areas in central and south-west Asia. Our findings, based on two years of observations of the aerosol chemical composition, provide clear evidence that the southern side of the high Himalayas is impacted by transport of anthropogenic aerosols which constitute the Asian brown cloud.

Final-revised paper