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The effect of black carbon on reflectance of snow in the accumulation area of glaciers in the Baspa basin, Himachal Pradesh, India
A. V. Kulkarni1, G. Vinay Kumar1, H. S. Negi2, J. Srinivasan1, and S. K. Satheesh1
Himalayan glaciers are being extensively debated in scientific and public forums, as changes in their distribution can significantly affect the availability of water in many rivers originating in the region. The distribution of glaciers can be influenced by mass balance, and most of the glaciers located in the Pir Panjal and Greater Himalayan mountain ranges are losing mass at the rate of almost a meter per year. The Equilibrium Line Altitude (ELA) has also shifted upward by 400 m in the last two decades. This upward migration of ELA and the loss in mass could have been influenced by changes in temperature, precipitation and by the deposition of black carbon in the accumulation area of glaciers. The deposition of black carbon can reduce the albedo of snow in the accumulation area leading to faster melting of snow and causing more negative mass balance. In this investigation, a change in reflectance in the accumulation area of the Baspa basin is analysed for the year 2009, as the region has experienced extensive forest fires along with northern Indian biomass burning. The investigation has shown that: (1) The number of forest fires in the summer of 2009 was substantially higher than in any other year between 2001 and 2010; (2) the drop in reflectance in the visible region from April to May in the accumulation area was significantly higher in the year 2009 than in any other year from 2000 to 2012; (3) the temperature of the region was substantially lower than the freezing point during the active fire period of 2009, indicating the small influence of liquid water and grain size; (4) the drop in reflectance was observed only in the visible region, indicating role of contamination; (5) in the visible region, a mean drop in reflectance of 21± 5% was observed during the active fire period in the accumulation area. At some places, the drop was as high as 50 ± 5%. This can only be explained by the deposition of black carbon. The study suggests that a change in snow albedo in the accumulation area due to the deposition of black carbon from anthropogenic and natural causes can influence the mass balance of the glaciers in the Baspa basin, Himachal Pradesh, India.
1.Divecha Center for Climate Change, Indian Institute of Science,
Bangalore 560012, India
2.Snow & Avalanche Study Establishment,
Chandigarh 160036, India
Kulkarni, A. V., Vinay Kumar, G., Negi, H. S., Srinivasan, J., and Satheesh, S. K.: The effect of black carbon on reflectance of snow in the accumulation area of glaciers in the Baspa basin, Himachal Pradesh, India, The Cryosphere Discuss., 7, 1359-1382, doi:10.5194/tcd-7-1359-2013, 2013.
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