HomeEarthEARTH SCIENCESSouth Asian black carbon causes glacier loss on Tibetan Plateau

South Asian black carbon causes glacier loss on Tibetan Plateau

Black carbon aerosol is produced by incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass. It absorbs a lot of light. Black carbon deposition in snow ice reduces the albedo of the snow ice surface. It hastens the melting of glaciers and snow cover. Thus, it alters the region’s hydrological process and water resources.

The South Asia region adjacent to the Tibetan Plateau is one of the world’s regions with the highest levels of black carbon emissions. South Asian black carbon aerosol can travel across the Himalayan Mountains to the Tibetan Plateau’s inland region.

A joint research team led by Prof. Kang Shichang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Prof. Chen Deliang of the University of Gothenburg and Prof. Robert Gillies of Utah State University recently examined the impact of black carbon aerosols on regional precipitation and glaciers over the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

Their findings were published in Nature Communications.

The researchers discovered that South Asian black carbon aerosols have indirectly affected the material supply of the Tibetan Plateau glaciers since the 21st century. It has changed water vapour transport in the South Asian monsoon.

Changes in weather patterns caused by black carbon aerosols cause more water vapour to form precipitation in South Asia and less water vapour to transmit to the Tibetan Plateau. As a result, precipitation decreases during monsoon in the central and southern Tibetan Plateaus. This particularly happens in the southern part of the Tibetan Plateau.

The decrease in precipitation further reduces the material supply of glaciers. Reduced material supply accounted for 11.0% of the average glacier material loss on the Tibetan Plateau from 2007 to 2016. It is 22.1% in the southern part of the plateau.


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