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Insights into mercury deposition and spatiotemporal variation in the glacier and melt water from the central Tibetan Plateau

Paudyal, Rukumesh, Kang, Shichang, Huang, Jie, Tripathee, Lekhendra, Zhang, Qianggong, Li, Xiaofei, Guo, Junming, Sun, Shiwei, He, Xiaobo, Sillanpää, Mika
The Science of the total environment 2017 v.599-600 pp. 2046-2053
diurnal variation, dust, environmental impact, glaciers, global warming, human health, melting, mercury, monitoring, particulates, pollutants, river water, rivers, snow, snowmelt, solar radiation, spatial variation, watersheds, China
Long-term monitoring of global pollutant such as Mercury (Hg) in the cryosphere is very essential for understanding its bio-geochemical cycling and impacts in the pristine environment with limited emission sources. Therefore, from May 2015 to Oct 2015, surface snow and snow-pits from Xiao Dongkemadi Glacier and glacier melt water were sampled along an elevation transect from 5410 to 5678m a.s.l. in the central Tibetan Plateau (TP). The concentration of Hg in surface snow was observed to be higher than that from other parts of the TP. Unlike the southern parts of the TP, no clear altitudinal variation was observed in the central TP. The peak Total Hg (HgT) concentration over the vertical profile on the snow pits corresponded with a distinct yellowish-brown dust layer supporting the fact that most of the Hg was associated with particulate matter. It was observed that only 34% of Hg in snow was lost when the surface snow was exposed to sunlight indicating that the surface snow is less influenced by the post-depositional process. Significant diurnal variation of HgT concentration was observed in the river water, with highest concentration observed at 7pm when the discharge was highest and lowest concentration during 7–8am when the discharge was lowest. Such results suggest that the rate of discharge was influential in the concentration of HgT in the glacier fed rivers of the TP. The estimated export of HgT from Dongkemadi river basin is 747.43gyr−1, which is quite high compared to other glaciers in the TP. Therefore, the export of global contaminant Hg might play enhanced role in the Alpine regions as these glaciers are retreating at an alarming rate under global warming which may have adverse impact on the ecosystem and the human health of the region.