New Delhi: Glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau are greatly affected by dust from the Thar Desert in India due to the influence of terrain and westerly winds, according to a study.
Dust deposited on a glacier’s surface can reduce the albedo — fraction of light that is reflected by a surface — of the ice and increase absorption of solar radiation, which has a significant impact on glacier melting and global climate change.
Accurately identifying the source of glacial dust on the Tibetan Plateau is critical for comprehending dynamics of glacial environment and reconstructing regional atmospheric environment, the researchers said.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research, determined dust sources for the three glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau and analysed the transport mechanism of the primary dust sources.
The researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences used two tracer methods to ascertain the origins of glacial dust and deduced that the dust primarily originated from the Tibetan Plateau surface soils, Thar Desert, Qaidam Basin and Taklimakan Desert, both in China, before the monsoon season.
The Taklimakan Desert and Thar Desert were identified as the most prominent dust sources, they said.
Central and southern glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau were greatly affected by dust from the Thar Desert and Taklimakan Desert due to the influence of terrain and westerly winds, the researchers said.
The Thar desert dust, lifted by updrafts from northwest India, was subsequently transported by westerlies, exerting a significant influence on the southern glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau, they said.
“Our study provides a valuable reference for future efforts to analyze glacier element characteristics and reconstruct climate,” said Li Yuefang, corresponding author of this study.

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