Snowmelt, icemelt, and rain from the Himalaya, Karakoram, and Hindu Kush mountain ranges forms the source of the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra rivers which are the major source of fresh water for 750 million people. Soot (also called black carbon) transported to the mountains from polluted areas is increasing the absorption of solar radiation by the glaciers, which is leading to loss of the glaciers and the freshwater source they provide.
In order to better understand the impacts of climate change and soot emissions on the South Asian glaciers and the potential impacts on the freshwater sources, AER worked with the World Bank and collaborators from Duke University, NASA, and NCAR to use the combined weather and atmospheric chemistry model WRF-Chem to determine the the sources contributing to the soot on the glaciers both under current conditions and in 2050 using projections of future controls to reduce soot emissions. The results of this study were recently published in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres. We found that brick kilns and wood burning stoves in South Asia are a significant source of soot, but that sources outside of South Asia contribute an equal amount to the soot on the glaciers. This information will be used by the World Bank and the nations of South Asia to inform soot control policies and freshwater management policies that will help to protect human health and economic development in South Asia as the global climate continues to change.
Link to article: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2018JD029049