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Spatial variations and sources of trace elements in recent snow from glaciers at the Tibetan Plateau


Trace elements (TEs) could pose a potential threat to the environment and human health and hence they have been paid attention increasingly at present. This study presents the acid-leached concentrations of TEs (e.g., Al, As, Ba, Co, Cr, Cs, Cu, Fe, Li, Mn, Mo, Pb, Rb, Sb, Sr, Ti, Tl, U, V) and dust content sampled from Qiumianleike (QMLK), Meikuang (MK), Yuzhufeng (YZF), Xiaodongkemadi (XDKMD), Gurenhekou (GRHK) glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau (TP) from April to May in 2013. A nonparametric Jonckheere-Terpstra Method was used to test the trend of spatial distribution of TEs. The statistical analysis indicates that TEs were the highest in the QMLK glacier, lowest in the YZF glacier, and comparable in the other three glaciers. Comparison with other glaciers of the plateau, the statistical analysis on As, Cu, Mo, Pb, and Sb shows that their concentrations had, in general, a decreasing distribution characteristic from the north to the south of TP, which indicates that the northern TP is loading more atmospheric-polluted impurity than central and southern TP. Enrichment factor (EF) analysis indicates that Rb, V, U, Cr, Ba, Cs, Li, As, Co, Mn, Tl, Sr, and Cu originated mainly from crustal dust, while anthropogenic inputs such as nonferrous metals melting, coal combustion, and traffic emission made an important contribution to the Mo, Pb, and Sb. Evidences from air mass back trajectories show that TEs in the five studied glaciers might not only come from surrounding areas of glaciers but also might be long-range transported by atmosphere from the Central Asia and South Asia and deposited on these glaciers.

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This study is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41276194, 40771046, 40601021). Thanks are owed to the Spring 2013 field work team on the Tibetan Plateau for their hard field work. We also appreciate two anonymous referees very much for their good reviews and suggestions for improving the paper.

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Correspondence to Yuefang Li.

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Responsible editor: Gerhard Lammel

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Huang, J., Li, Y., Li, Z. et al. Spatial variations and sources of trace elements in recent snow from glaciers at the Tibetan Plateau. Environ Sci Pollut Res 25, 7875–7883 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-017-0904-3

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  • Trace elements
  • Spatial variation
  • Sources
  • Snow
  • Tibetan Plateau