Articles | Volume 15, issue 3
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 1573–1584, 2015

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

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 15, 1573–1584, 2015

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. Cong1,3,5, S. Kang2,5, K. Kawamura3, B. Liu1, X. Wan1, Z. Wang1, S. Gao1, and P. Fu4 Z. Cong et al.
  • 1Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • 2State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • 3Institute of Low Temperature Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 060-0819, Japan
  • 4LAPC, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, CAS, Beijing 100029, China
  • 5Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Sciences, CAS, Beijing 100101, China

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