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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  21 Aug 2020

21 Aug 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Osmium isotope and trace elements reveal melting of Chhota Shigri Glacier, western Himalaya, insensitive to anthropogenic emission residues

Sarwar Nizam1, Indra Sekhar Sen1, Tanuj Shukla1, and David Selby2,3 Sarwar Nizam et al.
  • 1Department of Earth Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, Kanpur, UP 208016, India
  • 2Department of Earth Sciences, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3LE, UK
  • 3State Key Laboratory of Geological Processes and Mineral Resources, School of Earth Resources, China

Abstract. The western Himalaya glaciers seasonally melt, in part, controlled by the presence of ice surface impurities in the form of dust, organic, and inorganic particles. The hitherto knowledge that dark-colored impurities on the ice surface are a mechanistic driver of heat absorption and thus enhancing ice mass wasting makes understanding the concentrations, origin, and pathways of emission residues on the glacier surface a global concern to conserve the Himalayan ice mass that provides water to more than one billion people. Yet, the source, origin, and pathways of metal impurities on the ice surface of Himalayan glaciers remain poorly constrained. Here, we present major and trace element geochemistry, rhenium-osmium (Re-Os) isotopes composition of cryoconite – a dark-colored aggregate of mineral and organic materials – on the ablation zone of the Chhota Shigri Glacier (CSG) considered as a benchmark glacier for process understanding in the western Himalaya. We find that the cryoconite possesses elemental ratios and crustal enrichment factor that reveal a predominant crustal source. Further, the 187Os/188Os composition in cryoconite varies from non-radiogenic (0.36) to radiogenic (1.31) compositions. Using a three-component isotope mixing model we show that the Os in cryoconite is dominantly derived from local rocks with negligible input from anthropogenic Os sources. Given that the CSG has limited debris cover (~ 3.4 %) and the near absence of anthropogenically derived particles; our results suggests that dark-colored surficial deposits of anthropogenic dust particles are not one of the significant drivers of glacier melting in the western Himalaya, as observed elsewhere.

Sarwar Nizam et al.

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Sarwar Nizam et al.

Sarwar Nizam et al.


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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
One billion people rely on meltwater from the Himalayan glacial mass. Its alarming rate of melting is being enhanced by increased heat absorption caused by a dark-colored aggregate of minerals and organic materials on the glacier surface. We use multiple lines of geochemical evidence to show that Chhota Shigri Glacier (CSG)— a benchmark glacier in the western Himalaya — is essentially free of anthropogenic particles, and consequently limited role in glacier mass wastage rates.
One billion people rely on meltwater from the Himalayan glacial mass. Its alarming rate of...