Polluted snow causes early runoff, stronger monsoons in Asia

Mar 08, 2011
New research shows that soot from industrial and agricultural pollution is landing on the Tibetan Plateau (pictured here from Yushu Zangzu, Zangzu, China), causing snow to melt earlier on the plateau. As a result, India and China are experiencing wetter winters, drier summers, and stronger monsoons. Credit: Jan Reurink

In some cases, soot -- the fine, black carbon silt released from stoves, cars and manufacturing plants -- can pack more of a climatic punch than greenhouse gases, according to a paper published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), the University of Michigan, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that soot landing on snow on the massive Tibetan Plateau can do more to alter snowmelt and monsoon weather patterns in Asia than carbon dioxide and soot in the air.

Soot on snow causes the plateau's annual snowpack melt to happen sooner each year, causing farmers below it to have less water for their crops in the summer. In a domino effect, the melting then prods two of the region's monsoon systems to become stronger over India and China. "On the global scale, like cause the most concern related to ," said Yun Qian, the paper's lead author and an atmospheric scientist at PNNL. "But our research shows that in some places like the Tibetan Plateau, soot can do more damage."

Explore further: Ocean algae will cope well in varying climates, study shows

More information: Qian Y, et al. "Sensitivity Studies on the Impacts of Tibetan Plateau Snowpack Pollution on the Asian Hydrological Cycle and Monsoon Climate." Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Published online March 2, 2010. www.atmos-chem-phys.net/11/1929/2011/acp-11-1929-2011.html

Related Stories

Soot packs a punch on Tibetan Plateau's climate

Mar 03, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- In some cases, soot – the fine, black carbon silt that is released from stoves, cars and manufacturing plants – can pack more of a climatic punch than greenhouse gases, according ...

Dirty snow causes early runoff in Cascades, Rockies

Jan 12, 2009

Soot from pollution causes winter snowpacks to warm, shrink and warm some more. This continuous cycle sends snowmelt streaming down mountains as much as a month early, a new study finds. How pollution affects ...

Recommended for you

Monitoring volcanoes with ground-based atomic clocks

2 hours ago

An international team led by scientists from the University of Zurich finds that high-precision atomic clocks can be used to monitor volcanoes and potentially improve predictions of future eruptions. In addition, a ground-based ...

Image: Unusually large number of fires across Alaska

3 hours ago

The fire situation in Alaska is very dynamic at this time. As of June 29, 2015, there are 314 active fires in the State. Many fires in remote areas are unstaffed. The fire summary for Alaska is as follows: ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.