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High levels of black carbon in glaciers, warn scientists

DEHRADUN: Scientists from the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology have found heightened levels of black carbon in glacial areas of Uttarakhand during the forest fire seasons.

Black carbon absorbs light and heat which causes an increase in temperature, causing glaciers to melt faster. It is formed by the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, biofuels and biomass. This has worsened the air quality since black carbon is emitted directly into the atmosphere in the form of fine particles and is a light-absorbing component of particulate matter.

If wildfires continue for a longer period, it can affect the glaciers too, warned scientists. The report mentions that black carbon was found up to 4.62 cubic micrograms in over 900 glaciers during the wildfire season in Uttarakhand, especially from April to June.

 While 1-2 cubic micrograms of black carbon is considered normal, the present level is alarmingly high. A report on the situation has been submitted to Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, PS Negi, a senior scientist said. However, it’s not only the pollution in India but those from Europe and China is also affecting India.

While black carbon stays for a lesser time in the atmosphere as compared to greenhouse gases, its ill effects cannot be underestimated since the compound can also pollute groundwater, causing health complications in larger populations. DP Dobhal, another scientist said, “New research points out that air from Europe, China and even Africa contain traces of black carbon in considerable amount to affect the Himalayan glaciers.”