Articles | Volume 17, issue 1
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 17, 449–463, 2017

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

Atmos. Chem. Phys., 17, 449–463, 2017

Research article 10 Jan 2017

Research article | 10 Jan 2017

Background aerosol over the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau: observed characteristics of aerosol mass loading

Bin Liu1, Zhiyuan Cong1,4, Yuesi Wang2, Jinyuan Xin2, Xin Wan1, Yuepeng Pan2, Zirui Liu2, Yonghong Wang2, Guoshuai Zhang1, Zhongyan Wang1, Yongjie Wang1, and Shichang Kang3,4 Bin Liu et al.
  • 1Key Laboratory of Tibetan Environment Changes and Land Surface Processes, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Beijing 100101, China
  • 2State Key Laboratory of Atmospheric Boundary Layer Physics and Atmospheric Chemistry (LAPC), Institute of Atmospheric Physics, CAS, Beijing 100029, China
  • 3State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, CAS, Lanzhou 730000, China
  • 4CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China

Abstract. To investigate the atmospheric aerosols of the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau (HTP), an observation network was established within the region's various ecosystems, including at the Ngari, Qomolangma (QOMS), Nam Co, and Southeastern Tibetan (SET) stations. In this paper we illustrate aerosol mass loadings by integrating in situ measurements with satellite and ground-based remote sensing datasets for the 2011–2013 period, on both local and large scales. Mass concentrations of these surface atmospheric aerosols were relatively low and varied with land cover, showing a general tendency of Ngari and QOMS (barren sites) > Nam Co (grassland site) > SET (forest site). Daily averages of online PM2.5 (particulates with aerodynamic diameters below 2.5 µm) at these sites were sequentially 18.2 ± 8.9, 14.5 ± 7.4, 11.9 ± 4.9 and 11.7 ± 4.7 µg m−3. Correspondingly, the ratios of PM2.5 to total suspended particles (TSP) were 27.4 ± 6.65, 22.3 ± 10.9, 37.3 ± 11.1 and 54.4 ± 6.72 %. Bimodal mass distributions of size-segregated particles were found at all sites, with a relatively small peak in accumulation mode and a more notable peak in coarse mode. Diurnal variations in fine-aerosol masses generally displayed a bi-peak pattern at the QOMS, Nam Co and SET stations and a single-peak pattern at the Ngari station, controlled by the effects of local geomorphology, mountain-valley breeze circulation and aerosol emissions. Dust aerosol content in PM2.1 samples gave fractions of 26 % at the Ngari station and 29 % at the QOMS station, or  ∼ 2–3 times that of reported results at human-influenced sites. Furthermore, observed evidence confirmed the existence of the aerodynamic conditions necessary for the uplift of fine particles from a barren land surface. Combining surface aerosol data and atmospheric-column aerosol optical properties, the TSP mass and aerosol optical depth (AOD) of the Multi-angle Imaging Spectroradiometer (MISR) generally decreased as land cover changed from barren to forest, in inverse relation to the PM2.5 ratios. The seasonality of aerosol mass parameters was land-cover dependent. Over forest and grassland areas, TSP mass, PM2.5 mass, MISR-AOD and fine-mode AOD were higher in spring and summer, followed by relatively lower values in autumn and winter. At the barren site (the QOMS station), there were inconsistent seasonal patterns between surface TSP mass (PM2.5 mass) and atmospheric column AOD (fine-mode AOD). Our findings implicate that HTP aerosol masses (especially their regional characteristics and fine-particle emissions) need to be treated sensitively in relation to assessments of their climatic effect and potential role as cloud condensation nuclei and ice nuclei.

Short summary
The first observation net of background atmospheric aerosols of the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau were conducted in 2011–2013, and the aerosol mass loadings were especially illustrated in this paper. Consequently, these terrestrial aerosol masses were strongly ecosystem-dependent, with various seasonality and diurnal cycles at these sites. These findings implicate that regional characteristics and fine-particle emissions need to be treated sensitively when assessing their climatic effects.
Final-revised paper