Black Carbon & Glaciers

A recent study found that the concentration of black carbon in the Gangotri Glacier increased by 400 times in summer and had triggered the glacial melt.

Sources of Black Carbon

Black carbon is a fine particulate matter which is less than 2.5 micrometres in dimension. It is made up of carbon and arises from incomplete combustion of carbon based fuels. Some of its sources are forest fires, stubble burning, combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels, biomass, etc.

Effect on the Glaciers

Black carbon is capable of absorbing sunlight and energy to a much larger extent than carbon dioxide making it a significant contributor to greenhouse effect. Unlike carbon dioxide, it is short-lived in the atmosphere and is washed down to the earth by precipitation. It decreases the albedo (light reflecting capacity of a surface) of the glacier and causes it to absorb more energy. This warms the glacier and triggers the melting.

Gangotri Glacier

It is one of the largest glaciers of the Himalayan region and the primary source of River Ganga. It is located in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand in a region bordering Tibet. Apart from being a significant source of freshwater to the Ganga Basin region, it is also an important pilgrimage site.

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