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Central Tibetan Plateau atmospheric trace metals contamination: A 500-year record from the Puruogangri ice core

Beaudon, Emilie, Gabrielli, Paolo, Sierra-Hernández, M. Roxana, Wegner, Anna, Thompson, Lonnie G.
The Science of the total environment 2017 v.601-602 pp. 1349-1363
air pollution, aluminum, antimony, arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, coal, cobalt, combustion, copper, developing countries, dust, gasoline, ice, iron, lead, magnesium, manganese, metallurgy, nickel, rubidium, silver, sodium, steel, strontium, summer, time series analysis, tin, vanadium, zinc, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, USSR
A ~500-year section of ice core (1497–1992) from the Puruogangri ice cap has been analyzed at high resolution for 28 trace elements (TEs: Ag, Al, As, Ba, Bi, Cd, Co, Cr, Cs, Cu, Fe, Ga, Li, Mg, Mn, Na, Nb, Ni, Pb, Rb, Sb, Sn, Sr, Ti, Tl, U, V and Zn) to assess different atmospheric contributions to the ice and provide a temporal perspective on the diverse atmospheric influences over the central Tibetan Plateau (TP). At least two volcanic depositions have significantly impacted the central TP over the past 500years, possibly originating from the Billy Mitchell (1580, Papua New Guinea) and the Parker Peak (1641, Philippines) eruptions. A decreasing aeolian dust input to the ice cap allowed the detection of an atmospheric pollution signal. The anthropogenic pollution contribution emerges in the record since the early 1900s (for Sb and Cd) and increases substantially after 1935 (for Ag, Zn, Pb, Cd and Sb). The metallurgy (Zn, Pb and steel smelting) emission products (Cd, Zn, Pb and Ag) from the former Soviet Union and especially from central Asia (e.g., Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan) likely enhanced the anthropogenic deposition to the Puruogangri ice cap between 1935 and 1980, suggesting that the westerlies served as a conveyor of atmospheric pollution to central Tibet. The impact of this industrial pollution cumulated with that of the hemispheric coal and gasoline combustion which are respectively traced by Sb and Pb enrichment in the ice. The Chinese steel production accompanying the Great Leap Forward (1958–1961) and the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) is proposed as a secondary but proximal source of Pb pollution affecting the ice cap between 1958 and 1976. The most recent decade (1980–1992) of the enrichment time series suggests that Puruogangri ice cap recorded the early Sb, Cd, Zn, Pb and Ag pollution originating from developing countries of South (i.e., India) and East (i.e., China) Asia and transported by the summer monsoonal circulation.