Posted in | News | Climate Change | Pollution

Study Reveals Movement and Deposition of Atmospheric Pollutants in Remote Glaciers

Trace element contamination and atmospheric deposition are mainly due to anthropogenic emissions, which are likely to be transferred from emission sources to deposition sites worldwide and exert a harmful effect on human health and environment.

Map showing the study areas and sampling sites in the northeastern Tibetan Plateau, including the QG (Qiyi Glacier), LG12 (Laohugou Glacier No. 12), YG (Yuzhufeng Glacier), and MG (Miaoergou Glacier). (Image credit: KANG Shichang)

However, extensive investigations on the transport and deposition of trace elements over the northeastern Tibetan Plateau (TP) and its adjacent regions are very limited due to the dearth of trace element contamination data in high-altitude snowpacks of distant regions and the lack of ability to precisely evaluate effects caused by human activities.

A team of researchers from Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources (NIEER) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences recently estimated Al and 13 trace elements in glacier snowpacks in the northeastern TP and examined the transport and deposition of atmospheric pollutants in distant glaciers.

The study findings show that there is a remarkable variation in trace element deposition among the four glaciers with higher concentrations of Co, Cr, Ni, V, and Mo at the Miaoergou Glacier; higher concentrations of Cd, As, Cs, Pb, Cu, and Sb at the Yuzhufeng; and higher concentrations of Zn at the Qiyi glaciers.

Comparison of the study outcomes with distant eastern Antarctica reveals that the concentrations of trace elements in all four places are 2–100 times higher than those in the compared region, thus indicating high atmospheric pollution in the northeastern TP.

Furthermore, meteorological data are also used to find the prospective transport of pollutants to distant glaciers in the northeastern TP. Generally, the findings indicate that there are two different pollutant transport paths (South Asia and Central Asia) to the northeastern TP.

This research will offer new insight into the widespread transport and deposition of trace elements in the distant glacier basins of the northeastern TP.

The study titled “Atmospheric deposition and contamination of trace elements in snowpacks of mountain glaciers in the northeastern Tibetan Plateau” has been published in Science of the Total Environment.


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