Soot on Tibetan snow ’causes more rainfall over India and China’

March 4th, 2011 - 5:28 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Mar 4 (ANI): A new study has suggested that 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.

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the University of Michigan and 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 glacial 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, greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide cause the most concern related to climate change. But our research shows that in some places like the Tibetan Plateau, soot can do more damage,” said Yun Qian, the paper’s lead author and an atmospheric scientist at PNNL.

Qian and colleagues focused their research on the Tibetan Plateau, a giant outcropping of land between China and India that’s nicknamed the “Roof of the Earth.”

To find out how much soot is affecting the Tibetan Plateau’s region, Qian and colleagues used a global climate computer model, the Community Atmosphere Model.

The model allowed them to examine a mixture of possible scenarios, including if soot sat on the Tibetan Plateau’s snow, if soot was floating in the air above the plateau and if increased carbon dioxide was in the air as a result of industrialization.

The model’s calculations showed that the average air temperature immediately above the plateau increased when all the scenarios were combined. Alone, both soot on snow and carbon dioxide increased temperatures about 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

But while carbon dioxide increased temperatures fairly evenly throughout the region, including the ocean, soot on snow only significantly heated up the Tibetan Plateau and north Asia.

Researchers concluded that soot on snow could increase the temperature differences between air over land and air over the ocean, which drive monsoons.

The researchers reasoned that soot on snow is more efficient in melting the plateau’s snowpack because of its close proximity to the snow.

The findings have been published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. (ANI)

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