Air Pollution

Brown Carbon ‘Tarballs’


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : brown , black carbon

Mains level : Glacial melting of himalayas

A study has highlighted that brown carbon ‘tarballs’ that fasten the glacial melting has been found in the Himalayan atmosphere.

We are still to find a solution for the ill-fated Delhi air,  and here comes another blow from the stubble burnings.

What are Brown Carbon ‘Tarballs’?

  • Tarballs are small light-absorbing, carbonaceous particles formed due to burning of biomass or fossil fuels that deposit on snow and ice.
  • They are formed from brown carbon, emitted during the burning of fossil fuels.
  • The median sizes of externally mixed tarballs and internally mixed tarballs were 213 and 348 nanometre respectively.
  • Primary brown carbon (BrC) co-emitted with black carbon (BC) from biomass burning is an important light-absorbing carbonaceous aerosol.
  • The black carbon from the Indo-Gangetic Plain can reach the Himalaya region and influence glacial melting and climatic change.

Highlights of the study

  • Until now, black carbon was found to be transported long distances by the wind to the Himalayan atmosphere.
  • The study revealed that a dense array of active fire spots — corresponding to large-scale wheat-residue burning on the Indo-Gangetic Plain — occurred along the pathways of Himalaya.
  • The percentage of the tarballs increased on days of higher levels of pollution and could contribute to the hastening of glacial melt and global warming.
  • The researchers concluded that tarballs from long-range transport can be an important factor in the climatic effect and would correspond to a substantial influence on glacial melting in the Himalaya region.

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