Zhandang-glaciären på tibetanska högplatån. Foto: Chaoliu Li
The Zhadang glacier on the Tibetan Plateau på tibetanska högplatån. Foto: Chaoliu Li

Soot, or “black carbon” (BC), is formed by incomplete combustion and is a substantial environmental problem which has a major impact on the climate. The greatest impact to the regional climate comes when soot lands on snow banks and glaciers, just as in the Arctic.

An article in Nature Communications, published Tuesday, August 23rd, used a method developed at Stockholm University involving the carbon-14 dating of soot particulates. It determined that the largest part of the soot in the southern Himalayas comes from northern India while the carbon-14 fingerprint of soot in the northern Himalayas shows that it originates in China. Somewhat surprisingly, the soot in the centre of the region mostly comes from local emissions, possibly from the use of yak dung as household fuel.

“To determine the makeup of the emissions and where they come from is a big step forward for the capacity to make the right political decisions. Research provides better grounds for politicians to make the best environmental regulations,” says Örjan Gustafsson, professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry and the lead Swedish researcher on the team.

The Nature Communications article builds on the measurements and analysis from about a dozen places across the Himalayan and Tibetan plateau in cooperation with researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. More articles on other locations around the world are expected shortly.

Read the summary, list of authors and the entire article at “Sources of black carbon to the Himalaya – Tibetan Plateau glaciers” here: http://dx.doi.org/ Enter 10.1038/NCOMMS12574.