Articles | Volume 15, issue 3
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 1191–1204, 2015

Special issue: Study of ozone, aerosols and radiation over the Tibetan Plateau...

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 1191–1204, 2015

Research article 02 Feb 2015

Research article | 02 Feb 2015

Carbonaceous aerosols recorded in a southeastern Tibetan glacier: analysis of temporal variations and model estimates of sources and radiative forcing

M. Wang1,2, B. Xu1, J. Cao3, X. Tie3,4, H. Wang2, R. Zhang2,5, Y. Qian2, P. J. Rasch2, S. Zhao3, G. Wu1, H. Zhao1, D. R. Joswiak1, J. Li1, and Y. Xie1 M. Wang et al.
  • 1Key Laboratory of Tibetan Environment Changes and Land Surface Processes, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
  • 2Atmospheric Sciences and Global Change Division, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA 99352, USA
  • 3State Key Laboratory of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085, China
  • 4National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, 80303, USA
  • 5Key Laboratory for Semi-Arid Climate Change of the Ministry of Education, College of Atmospheric Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, Gansu, China

Abstract. High temporal resolution measurements of black carbon (BC) and organic carbon (OC) covering the time period of 1956–2006 in an ice core over the southeastern Tibetan Plateau show a distinct seasonal dependence of BC and OC with higher respective concentrations but a lower OC / BC ratio in the non-monsoon season than during the summer monsoon. We use a global aerosol-climate model, in which BC emitted from different source regions can be explicitly tracked, to quantify BC source–receptor relationships between four Asian source regions and the southeastern Tibetan Plateau as a receptor. The model results show that South Asia has the largest contribution to the present-day (1996–2005) mean BC deposition at the ice-core drilling site during the non-monsoon season (October to May) (81%) and all year round (74%), followed by East Asia (14% to the non-monsoon mean and 21% to the annual mean). The ice-core record also indicates stable and relatively low BC and OC deposition fluxes from the late 1950s to 1980, followed by an overall increase to recent years. This trend is consistent with the BC and OC emission inventories and the fuel consumption of South Asia (as the primary contributor to annual mean BC deposition). Moreover, the increasing trend of the OC / BC ratio since the early 1990s indicates a growing contribution of coal combustion and/or biomass burning to the emissions. The estimated radiative forcing induced by BC and OC impurities in snow has increased since 1980, suggesting an increasing potential influence of carbonaceous aerosols on the Tibetan glacier melting and the availability of water resources in the surrounding regions. Our study indicates that more attention to OC is merited because of its non-negligible light absorption and the recent rapid increases evident in the ice-core record.

Short summary
Carbonaceous aerosols recorded in a Tibetan glacier present a distinct seasonal dependence and an increasing trend after 1980, which has important implications for the accelerated glacier melting. We use a global aerosol--climate model to quantify the aerosol source--receptor relationships, showing that emissions in South Asia had the largest contribution. The emission inventories and historical fuel consumption in South Asia are consistent with our ice-core analysis and model results.
Final-revised paper