Abstract

In snow and ice, light-absorbing particles (LAPs), such as black carbon (BC) and dust, accelerate the melting of Third Pole glaciers (TPGs). In this study, we revaluated LAP concentrations in the snow pits of TPGs (SP-TPGs), measured LAP mass absorption cross-sections (MACs), and simulated their effects on glacier darkening and melting based on the Spectral Albedo Model for Dirty Snow and a surface energy and mass balance model. The results indicated that because of their short distances to emission sources, the average BC concentrations measured in snow pits in the periphery of Third Pole were much higher than those measured in the inland Tibetan Plateau, and the average dust concentrations generally decreased from north to south. The average MACs of BC in the SP-TPGs varied from 3.1 to 7.7 m2 g−1 at 550 nm, most of the average spectral values were comparable in the visible and near-infrared bands to those calculated by Mie theory, except those in Urumqi Glacier No. 1 (UR), Syek Zapadniy Glacier (SZ), and Laohugou Glacier No.12 (LH), while the average spectral MACs of dust in the SP-TPGs were considerably smaller in magnitude than most of the variations measured in other regions. Compared with the pure snow surfaces, BC and dust played comparable roles in reducing albedo in UR, SZ, LH, and Renlongba Glacier, whereas BC was the most prominent absorber in the other glaciers. The combined effect of BC and dust accelerated melting by 30.4–345.9 mm w.e. (19.7–45.3% of the total mass balance) through surface albedo darkening (0.06–0.17) and increased radiation absorption (25.8–65.7 W m−2) within one month of the ablation season. This study provides a new data set of LAP concentrations and MACs and helps to clarify the roles of these factors in the cryospheric environment of the Third Pole.

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