Articles | Volume 15, issue 3
Research article
13 Feb 2015
Research article |  | 13 Feb 2015

Carbonaceous aerosols on the south edge of the Tibetan Plateau: concentrations, seasonality and sources

Z. Cong, S. Kang, K. Kawamura, B. Liu, X. Wan, Z. Wang, S. Gao, and P. Fu

Abstract. To quantitatively evaluate the effect of carbonaceous aerosols on the south edge of the Tibetan Plateau, aerosol samples were collected weekly from August 2009 to July 2010 at Qomolangma (Mt. Everest) Station for Atmospheric and Environmental Observation and Research (QOMS, 28.36° N, 86.95° E, 4276 m a.s.l.). The average concentrations of organic carbon (OC), elemental carbon (EC) and water-soluble organic carbon were 1.43, 0.25 and 0.77 μg m−3, respectively. The concentration levels of OC and EC at QOMS are comparable to those at high-elevation sites on the southern slopes of the Himalayas (Langtang and Nepal Climate Observatory at Pyramid, or NCO-P), but 3 to 6 times lower than those at Manora Peak, India, and Godavari, Nepal. Sulfate was the most abundant anion species followed by nitrate, accounting for 25 and 12% of total ionic mass, respectively. Ca2+ was the most abundant cation species (annual average of 0.88 μg m−3). The dust loading, represented by Ca2+ concentration, was relatively constant throughout the year. OC, EC and other ionic species (NH4+, K+, NO3 and SO42−) exhibited a pronounced peak in the pre-monsoon period and a minimum in the monsoon season, being similar to the seasonal trends of aerosol composition reported previously from the southern slope of the Himalayas, such as Langtang and NCO-P. The strong correlation of OC and EC in QOMS aerosols with K+ and levoglucosan indicates that they mainly originated from biomass burning. The fire spots observed by MODIS and backward air-mass trajectories further demonstrate that in pre-monsoon season, agricultural and forest fires in northern India and Nepal were most likely sources of carbonaceous aerosol at QOMS. Moreover, the CALIOP observations confirmed that air-pollution plumes crossed the Himalayas during this period. The highly coherent variation of daily aerosol optical depth (500 nm) between QOMS and NCO-P indicates that both slopes of the Himalayas share a common atmospheric environment regime. In addition to large-scale atmospheric circulation, the unique mountain/valley breeze system can also have an important effect on air-pollutant transport.

Final-revised paper