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Optical characteristics of cryoconite (surface dust) on glaciers: the relationship between light absorbency and the property of organic matter contained in the cryoconite

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Optical characteristics of the cryoconite collected from nine glaciers in the Himalaya, Tibet and the Arctic (Canada and Svalbard) were analyzed. The spectral light reflectance (visible region) of the cryoconite on the six glaciers in the Arctic and the Himalaya was generally low, indicating high light absorbency (dark coloration) of the cryoconite. In contrast, the spectral reflectances of the cryoconite on the three glaciers in Tibet were significantly higher than on the other glaciers. There was no significant difference in the spectral reflectance of mineral particles contained in the cryoconite between the Tibetan and the other glaciers, indicating that the difference in the albedo of the cryoconites is not due to the mineral particles, but due to organic matter contained in the cryoconite. Chemical analysis of the organic matter in the cryoconites revealed that the light absorbency of cryoconites is due to the amount of humic substances, which are dark-colored organic substances, the residue of bacterial decomposition of organic matter. The cryoconite of the three glaciers in Tibet contained significantly smaller amounts of humic substances than that of the other glaciers, probably due to different biological or chemical conditions. Results show that the formation of the humic substances in the cryoconite affects its optical characteristics, and possibly affects the surface albedo of the glaciers.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2002-01-01

More about this publication?
  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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