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Atmospheric Measurement Techniques An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 11, issue 3
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 11, 1403-1416, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Atmos. Meas. Tech., 11, 1403-1416, 2018
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 12 Mar 2018

Research article | 12 Mar 2018

Light-absorption of dust and elemental carbon in snow in the Indian Himalayas and the Finnish Arctic

Jonas Svensson1, Johan Ström2, Niku Kivekäs1, Nathaniel B. Dkhar3,4, Shresth Tayal3,4, Ved P. Sharma3,4, Arttu Jutila5,a, John Backman1, Aki Virkkula1, Meri Ruppel6, Antti Hyvärinen1,7, Anna Kontu8, Henna-Reetta Hannula8, Matti Leppäranta5, Rakesh K. Hooda1,3, Atte Korhola6, Eija Asmi1, and Heikki Lihavainen1 Jonas Svensson et al.
  • 1Atmospheric Composition Research, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
  • 2Department of Environmental Science and Analytical Chemistry, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 3The Energy and Resource Institute, New Delhi, India
  • 4The Energy and Resource Institute University, New Delhi, India
  • 5Institute for Atmospheric and Earth System Research, Faculty of Science, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  • 6Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland
  • 7Expert Services, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Helsinki, Finland
  • 8Arctic Research Center, Finnish Meteorological Institute, Sodankylä, Finland
  • anow at: Alfred Wegener Institute, Bremerhaven, Germany

Abstract. Light-absorbing impurities (LAIs) deposited in snow have the potential to substantially affect the snow radiation budget, with subsequent implications for snow melt. To more accurately quantify the snow albedo, the contribution from different LAIs needs to be assessed. Here we estimate the main LAI components, elemental carbon (EC) (as a proxy for black carbon) and mineral dust in snow from the Indian Himalayas and paired the results with snow samples from Arctic Finland. The impurities are collected onto quartz filters and are analyzed thermal–optically for EC, as well as with an additional optical measurement to estimate the light-absorption of dust separately on the filters. Laboratory tests were conducted using substrates containing soot and mineral particles, especially prepared to test the experimental setup. Analyzed ambient snow samples show EC concentrations that are in the same range as presented by previous research, for each respective region. In terms of the mass absorption cross section (MAC) our ambient EC surprisingly had about half of the MAC value compared to our laboratory standard EC (chimney soot), suggesting a less light absorptive EC in the snow, which has consequences for the snow albedo reduction caused by EC. In the Himalayan samples, larger contributions by dust (in the range of 50% or greater for the light absorption caused by the LAI) highlighted the importance of dust acting as a light absorber in the snow. Moreover, EC concentrations in the Indian samples, acquired from a 120cm deep snow pit (possibly covering the last five years of snow fall), suggest an increase in both EC and dust deposition. This work emphasizes the complexity in determining the snow albedo, showing that LAI concentrations alone might not be sufficient, but additional transient effects on the light-absorbing properties of the EC need to be considered and studied in the snow. Equally as imperative is the confirmation of the spatial and temporal representativeness of these data by comparing data from several and deeper pits explored at the same time.

Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Receding glaciers in the Himalayas are of concern. Here we present measurements of light-absorbing impurities, known to contribute to the ongoing glacier decrease, in snow from Indian Himalayas and compare them to snow samples from the Finnish Arctic. The soot particles in the snow are shown to have lower light absorbing efficiency, possibly affecting their radiative forcing potential in the snow. Further, dust influences the snow in the Himalayas to a much greater extent than in Finland.
Receding glaciers in the Himalayas are of concern. Here we present measurements of...