Journal cover Journal topic
The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
The Cryosphere, 9, 331-340, 2015
© Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
12 Feb 2015
Measurements of light-absorbing particles on the glaciers in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru
C. G. Schmitt1,2, J. D. All2,3, J. P. Schwarz4,5, W. P. Arnott6, R. J. Cole2,7,*, E. Lapham2, and A. Celestian3 1National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado, USA
2American Climber Science Program, Eldora, Colorado, USA
3Department of Geography and Geology, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky, USA
4Chemical Sciences Division, Earth System Research Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colorado, USA
5Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA
6Department of Physics, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada, USA
7Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, USA
*now at: Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaii, Manoa, Hawaii, USA
Abstract. Glaciers in the tropical Andes have been rapidly losing mass since the 1970s. In addition to the documented increase in temperature, increases in light-absorbing particles deposited on glaciers could be contributing to the observed glacier loss. Here we report on measurements of light-absorbing particles sampled from glaciers during three surveys in the Cordillera Blanca Mountains in Peru. During three research expeditions in the dry seasons (May–August) of 2011, 2012 and 2013, 240 snow samples were collected from 15 mountain peaks over altitudes ranging from 4800 to nearly 6800 m. Several mountains were sampled each of the 3 years and some mountains were sampled multiple times during the same year. Collected snow samples were melted and filtered in the field then later analyzed using the Light Absorption Heating Method (LAHM), a new technique that measures the ability of particles on filters to absorb visible light. LAHM results have been calibrated using filters with known amounts of fullerene soot, a common industrial surrogate for black carbon (BC). As sample filters often contain dust in addition to BC, results are presented in terms of effective black carbon (eBC). During the 2013 survey, snow samples were collected and kept frozen for analysis with a Single Particle Soot Photometer (SP2). Calculated eBC mass from the LAHM analysis and the SP2 refractory black carbon (rBC) results were well correlated (r2 = 0.92). These results indicate that a substantial portion of the light-absorbing particles in the more polluted regions were likely BC. The 3 years of data show that glaciers in the Cordillera Blanca Mountains close to human population centers have substantially higher levels of eBC (as high as 70 ng g−1) than remote glaciers (as low as 2.0 ng g−1 eBC), indicating that population centers can influence local glaciers by sourcing BC.

Citation: Schmitt, C. G., All, J. D., Schwarz, J. P., Arnott, W. P., Cole, R. J., Lapham, E., and Celestian, A.: Measurements of light-absorbing particles on the glaciers in the Cordillera Blanca, Peru, The Cryosphere, 9, 331-340,, 2015.
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
This paper presents the results of 3 years of measurements of light absorbing particles on the glaciers in Peru. A new analysis technique has been developed and results are shown to be well correlated with black carbon mass estimates made with the Single Particle Soot Photometer (SP2) instrument, the state-of-the-art instrument for this type of measurement. Effective black carbon levels were found to be moderate on glaciers near cities and close to zero in more remote regions.
This paper presents the results of 3 years of measurements of light absorbing particles on the...