Articles | Volume 15, issue 11
Research article
08 Jun 2015
Research article |  | 08 Jun 2015

Quantifying sources, transport, deposition, and radiative forcing of black carbon over the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau

R. Zhang, H. Wang, Y. Qian, P. J. Rasch, R. C. Easter, P.-L. Ma, B. Singh, J. Huang, and Q. Fu

Abstract. Black carbon (BC) particles over the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau (HTP), both airborne and those deposited on snow, have been shown to affect snowmelt and glacier retreat. Since BC over the HTP may originate from a variety of geographical regions and emission sectors, it is essential to quantify the source–receptor relationships of BC in order to understand the contributions of natural and anthropogenic emissions and provide guidance for potential mitigation actions. In this study, we use the Community Atmosphere Model version 5 (CAM5) with a newly developed source-tagging technique, nudged towards the MERRA meteorological reanalysis, to characterize the fate of BC particles emitted from various geographical regions and sectors. Evaluated against observations over the HTP and surrounding regions, the model simulation shows a good agreement in the seasonal variation in the near-surface airborne BC concentrations, providing confidence to use this modeling framework for characterizing BC source–receptor relationships. Our analysis shows that the relative contributions from different geographical regions and source sectors depend on season and location in the HTP. The largest contribution to annual mean BC burden and surface deposition in the entire HTP region is from biofuel and biomass (BB) emissions in South Asia, followed by fossil fuel (FF) emissions from South Asia, then FF from East Asia. The same roles hold for all the seasonal means except for the summer, when East Asia FF becomes more important. For finer receptor regions of interest, South Asia BB and FF have the largest impact on BC in the Himalayas and central Tibetan Plateau, while East Asia FF and BB contribute the most to the northeast plateau in all seasons and southeast plateau in the summer. Central Asia and Middle East FF emissions have relatively more important contributions to BC reaching the northwest plateau, especially in the summer. Although local emissions only contribute about 10% of BC in the HTP, this contribution is extremely sensitive to local emission changes. Lastly, we show that the annual mean radiative forcing (0.42 W m−2) due to BC in snow outweighs the BC dimming effect (−0.3 W m−2) at the surface over the HTP. We also find strong seasonal and spatial variation with a peak value of 5 W m−2 in the spring over the northwest plateau. Such a large forcing of BC in snow is sufficient to cause earlier snow melting and potentially contribute to the acceleration of glacier retreat.

Short summary
We use the CAM5 model with a novel source-tagging technique to characterize the fate of BC particles emitted from various geographical regions and sectors and their transport pathways to the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau (HTP). We show a comprehensive picture of the seasonal and regional dependence of BC source attributions, and find strong seasonal and spatial variations in BC-in-snow radiative forcing in the HTP that can be quantitatively attributed to the various regional/sectoral sources.
Final-revised paper