Snowpack Pollution on the Tibetan Plateau Has Influence on the Asian Monsoon


The Tibetan Plateau has long been identified as critical in regulating the Asian monsoon climate and hydrological cycle. BER-funded scientists conducted a series of numerical experiments with a global climate model designed to simulate the radiative effect of black carbon and dust in snow. The results show a large, black carbon content in snow, especially over the southern slope of the Tibetan Plateau, prompting snow melt and runoff increases during late winter and early spring but decreases during late spring and early summer. Changes in snow cover also cause the Tibetan Plateau to be warmer at the onset of the summer monsoon season, forcing a stronger thermal contrast between the land and the ocean, which in turn drives a stronger monsoon in Asia. This research indicates that pollution on snow has the potential of drastically affecting regional climate.

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Qian, Y., M. G. Flanner, L. R. Leung, and W. Wang. 2011. “Sensitivity Studies on the Impacts of Tibetan Plateau Snowpack Pollution on the Asian Hydrological Cycle and Monsoon Climate,” Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, available online.