• Collecting snow samples to quantify light absorbing particles
  • Monthly samples collected near Huaraz, Peru

Black carbon research

Measurements of light absorbing particles in snow by the American Climber Science Program in the tropical Andes, 2014.

ACSP-Peru: The American Climber Science Program returned to Peru’s Cordillera Blanca for the fourth year of an ongoing research program. While not the prime focus, snow sample collection was still a very important part of the expedition. In total, approximately 55 filter samples were collected from the Cordillera Blanca as well as 18 snow samples which have been returned to Colorado for future analysis with the SP2. Preliminary results from the filter measurements show that the trends observed over the first three years of sampling are holding in the fourth. The mountains near Huaraz have substantial contamination while mountains to tne north have very little contamination. Effective Black Carbon estimates from the filters indicate that the mountains near Huaraz have the absorptive equivalent of 20 – 100 nanograms of black carbon per gram of snow while filters from the northern mountains showed values of less than 10 ng/g. Samples for SP2 analysis were collected from three mountains: Pisco, which was very clean in 2013, Vallunaraju, which had the highest levels of contamination in 2013, and Ishinca, which is expected to be somewhere in between given its location. Fresh snow fell the night before the Ishinca climb, so it may have been cleaner than would normally be expected. 4 samples were also collected going down into a crevasse on Vallunaraju. We expect to analyze the SP2 samples in November.

Year round measurements in the Cordillera Blanca: A local technician who has been working with an Austrian group on glacier mass balance measurements started taking year round filter measurements in February 2013. He is also collecting snow for SP2 analysis. The measurements are taking place at Shallap glacier which is near Huaraz and is expected to have high levels of contamination for the region. The February and March measurements (wet season) appeared to be very clean. After that (after dry season began), the filters were all extremely dirty with eBC estimates higher than 50 ng/g from the filters. The technician has been contracted to collect samples through January, then either ACSP or the Austrians will cover his expenses for another six months after that.

ACSP is working with several students at the local Universidad Nacional Santiago Antunez de Mayolo in Huaraz. Among those projects of interest to the light absorbing particles in snow community, three student projects stand out. Wilmer will be collecting and filtering snow samples once a month from Yannapaccha, a mountain near Pisco in a clean region of the Cordillera Blanca (which will be a nice contrast to the monthly measurements at Shallap). Cindy will be looking at a link between black carbon in snow and other pollutants in the snow with the help of a water quality student at Western Washington University. And Dayana will be conducting PM2.5 measurements at various different locations to try to investigate pollution transport from Huaraz towards the glaciers.

Beyond the 2014 ACSP Peru expedition. After the ACSP expedition ended in Huaraz, ACSP project leader Carl Schmitt headed to Cusco to work with Julio Warthon at Universidad Nacional de San Antonio Abad del Cusco. During this visit, Professor Warthon organized a 3 day expedition into the mountains near Ausangate mountain. Six students, four professors, a guide accompanied Schmitt to collect samples. Due to local conditions only seven filter samples were collected. Analysis showed that eBC values are on the order of 20-50 ng/g. 4 snow samples for SP2 measurements as well. Several of the students are going to be collecting samples regularly in different locations for the coming year. Due to the much higher population in the Cusco region as well as the prevalence of fire in the dry season, ACSP is in the initial stages of planning to visit the region with a larger team in 2015.

Filter samples as well as samples for SP2 analysis were also collected from Mururata in Bolivia in collaboration with Marcos Andrade of the University Mayor de San Andres de La Paz and Dirk Hoffmann of the Bolivian Mountain Institute. Eight filter samples were collected and initial eBC estimates show that values in the 10-40 ng/g range. Samples were collected in June, well before the typical burn season (for the Amazon). I am not sure if the mountains burn later in the year in Bolivia like they do near Cusco.