2023
  • Non-ICIMOD publication

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Variability of ambient black carbon concentration in the Central Himalaya and its assessment over the Hindu Kush Himalayan region

  • Praveen Kumar Singh
  • Bhupesh Adhikary
  • Xintong Chen
  • Shichang Kang
  • Shankar Prasad Poudel
  • Tshering Tashi
  • Ajanta Goswami
  • Siva Praveen Puppala
  • Summary

During 2015-2018, eight black carbon (BC) monitoring sites were established in Nepal and Bhutan to fill a significant data gap regarding BC measurement in Central Himalaya. This manuscript analyzes and presents data from these eight stations and one additional station on the Tibetan plateau (TP). Complex topography, varied emission sources, and atmospheric transport pathways significantly impacted the BC concentrations across these stations, with annual mean concentrations varying from 36 ng m−3 to 45,737 ng m−3. Higher annual mean concentrations (5609 ± 4515 ng m−3) were recorded at low-altitude sites than in other locations, with seasonal concentrations highest in the winter (7316 ± 2541 ng m−3). In contrast, the annual mean concentrations were lowest at high-altitude sites (376 ± 448 ng m−3); the BC concentrations at these sites peaked during the pre-monsoon season (930 ± 685 ng m−3). Potential source contributions to the total observed BC were analyzed using the absorption angstrom exponent (AAE). AAE analysis showed the dominance of biomass burning sources (>50 %), except in Kathmandu. By combining our data with previously published literature, we put our measurements in perspective by presenting a comprehensive assessment of BC concentrations and their variability over the Hindu Kush Himalayan (HKH) region. The BC levels in all three geographic regions, high, mid, and low altitude significantly influenced by the persistent seasonal meteorology. However, the mid-altitude stations were substantially affected by valley dynamics and urbanization. The low-altitude stations experienced high BC concentrations during the winter and post-monsoon seasons. Concentration weighted trajectory (CWT) and frequency analyses revealed the dominance of long-range transported pollution during winter over HKH, from west to east. South Asian sources remained significant during the monsoon season. During pre- and post-monsoon, the local, regional, and long-distance pollution varied depending on the location of the receptor site.