back to news April 10, 2012

Gabrielli and Thompson Awarded NSF Grant to Study Impact of Atmospheric Trace Elements on the “Third Pole” Glaciers

Paolo Gabrielli, research scientist, Byrd Polar Research Center and Lonnie Thompson, Distinguished University Professor of Earth Sciences and senior research scientist, Byrd Polar Research Center, have been awarded a three-year $588,000 grant from the NSF Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences to assess the human impact on the chemical characteristics of the glaciers in the Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau from the pre-industrial era to present time.

Gabrielli and Thompson will use an existing set of unique ice cores retrieved from Guliya (Western Tibetan plateau), Naimona'nyi and Dasuopu (Central Himalaya), Puruogangri and Dunde (Central and Northern Tibetean plateau, respectively) to analyze for a large suite of trace elements. These data will allow discrimination of the natural background components (e.g. crustal, volcanic constituents) from the anthropogenic components (e.g. fossil fuel combustion and non-ferrous metal production) of aerosol deposited to these glaciers over time.

The spatial and temporal characterization of atmospheric pollution at high elevations in the Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau is very much needed because recent studies suggest that atmospheric "brown clouds" deposition to the Himalayan glaciers may affect their energy balance, resulting in an acceleration of ablation. Knowledge of the initial quality of the meltwater, resulting from the ongoing shrinking of the glaciers in the Himalaya, is also important for planning the availability of water resources for millions of people who live downstream from these glaciers.

Ultimately, this study will serve as a source of fundamental information for policy makers trying to mitigate the impact of trace metals in the environment.

This project will be developed in the framework of the Third Pole Environment initiative and will reinforce the collaboration between Ohio State and the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research in Beijing.