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Geological Sciences

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Himalayan glaciers are melting due to atmospheric warming, with the potential to limit access to water for more than 25 % of the global population that resides in these glacier meltwater catchments. Black carbon has been implicated as a factor that is contributing to Himalayan glacier melt, but its sources and mechanisms of delivery to the Himalayas remain controversial. Here, we provide a 211-year ice core record spanning 1781–1992 CE for refractory black carbon (rBC) deposition from the Dasuopu glacier ice core that has to date provided the highest-elevation ice core record (7200 m). We report an average rBC concentration of 1.5 µg L−1 (SD=5.0, n=1628) over the 211-year period. An increase in the frequency and magnitude of rBC deposition occurs after 1877 CE, accompanied by decreased snow accumulation associated with a shift in the North Atlantic Oscillation Index to a positive phase. Typically, rBC is deposited onto Dasuopu glacier during the non-monsoon season, and short-lived increases in rBC concentration are associated with periods of drought within neighboring regions in northwestern India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Using a combination of spectral and back-trajectory analyses, as well as a comparison with a concurrent analysis of trace metals at equivalent depths in the same ice core, we show that biomass burning resulting from dry conditions is a source of rBC to the central Himalaya and is responsible for deposition that is up to 60 times higher than the average rBC concentration over the time period analyzed. We suggest that biomass burning is a significant source of rBC to the central Himalaya and that the rBC record can be used to identify periods of drought in nearby regions that are upwind of Dasuopu glacier.


This article was originally published Open Access in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.


Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


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