Penetration of biomass-burning emissions from South Asia through the Himalayas: new insights from atmospheric organic acids


High levels of carbonaceous aerosol exist over South Asia, the area adjacent to the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau. Little is known about if they can be transported across the Himalayas and as far inland as the Tibetan Plateau. As important constituents of aerosols, organic acids have been recognized as unique fingerprints to identify the atmospheric process. Here we measured dicarboxylic acids and related compounds in aerosols on the northern slope of Mt. Everest (Qomolangma, 4276 m a.s.l.). Strong positive correlations were observed for dicarboxylic acids with biomass burning tracers, levoglucosan and K+, demonstrating that this area was evidently affected by biomass burning. The seasonal variation pattern of dicarboxylic acids is consistent with OC and EC, being characterized by a pronounced maximum in the pre-monsoon season. Molecular distributions of dicarboxylic acids and related compounds (malonic acid/succinic acid, maleic acid/fumaric acid) further support this finding. We suggest that the local meteorological conditions and regional atmospheric flow process could facilitate the penetration of the carbonaceous aerosols from South Asia throughout the Himalayas. With the consideration of the darkening force of carbonaceous aerosols, our finding has important implication for this climate-sensitive area, where the glacier melting supplies water for billions of people downstream.


With vast mountain glaciers (ca. 105 km2), the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau (HTP) present a unique and sensitive area under the regime of climate change1,2. Meltwater from those glaciers supplies major Asian rivers, such as the Indus River, Ganges River, Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra), Yangtze River and Yellow River3,4. At the same time, serious air pollution (Atmospheric Brown Clouds, ABC) is widely spread on the Indo Gangetic Plain (IGP)5. To evaluate the influence of the brown cloud over IGP on the high Himalayas, several continuous observations have been implemented under the framework of the UNEP-ABC project6. Those research clearly demonstrated that the ABC could affect the high altitudes and even be lifted to more than 10 km in height7. However, most current works were confined to the southern slope of the Himalayas and little is known about the northern slope, especially the spread and transport mechanism of these air pollutants8. Actually, if the pollutants could be transported across the Himalayas, the gentle surface of the Tibetan Plateau will favor their further spread to the north, where more glaciers locate9. The deposition and accumulation of carbonaceous particles on the snow/ice surface may dramatically decrease the snow albedo, thereby resulting in increased glacier melt10,11,12,13.

As major constituents of atmospheric aerosols, organic acids can originate either from the primary process such as biomass burning and traffic emission14 or the secondary formation by gas-to-particle conversion from various precursors15,16. Due to the hygroscopicity and the capability to act as cloud condensation nuclei (CCN), organic acids in aerosols are of great importance in the climate system17. Moreover, several specific compounds and their concentration ratios have been well recognized as unique fingerprints to identify the sources, transport and reaction processes of atmospheric aerosols. Given the importance of organic acids, they were widely studied in different locations such as urban18, continental background19,20, ocean21 and the Arctic22. However, such research is very scarce in the HTP. In ice core samples from Mt. Everest, Kang23 found the oxalate concentration level during the 1950s–1980s was three times the background value of the 19th century values. This tripling was attributed to the anthropogenic production.

In this study, dicarboxylic acids and related compounds in aerosols were measured for the first time on Mt. Everest, a high‐altitude site on the northern slope of the Himalayas (28.36°N, 86.95°E; 4276 m above sea level), from August 2009 to July 2010. The major purpose of this research is to reveal the transport process of atmospheric pollutants across the Himalayas by exploiting the source-indicating faction of organic acids.


Molecular distribution of dicarboxylic acids and related compounds

Table 1 shows the average concentration and ranges of various dicarboxylic and related compounds in aerosols from Mt. Everest. Annual average concentrations of dicarboxylic acids, oxoacids and α-dicarbonyls were 109, 7.39 and 0.85 ng m−3, accounting for 7.45%, 0.39% and 0.06% of total organic carbon (OC), respectively. The contribution of dicarboxylic acids and related compounds to aerosol OC could be up to 15.5%, indicating that organic acids are major components in the high mountain aerosols. The average concentration of dicarboxylic acids in Mt. Everest aerosol is two to four times higher than that (64 ng m−3) reported in Alert, Arctic24 and that (30 ng m−3) in Syowa, Antarctica25. The value found in this study is comparable with data from some remote marine sites, such as 139 ng m−3 at Chichi-jima Island in the western North Pacific26, but much lower than those observed in Asian cities. For example, high levels of dicarboxylic acids were reported in New Delhi (2330 ng m−3)27 and Chennai (612 ng m−3)28, India and Hong Kong (692 ng m−3)29. Furthermore, in this study the average concentration of total dicarboxylic acids in the pre-monsoon period (235 ng m−3) is significantly higher than during other seasons (63.1 ng m−3 in monsoon, 58.4 ng m−3 in post-monsoon and 69.7 ng m−3 in winter, Table S1). The high loading of dicarboxylic acids in the pre-monsoon season in the Mt. Everest region was likely related to the source strength rather than photochemical oxidation. According to a previous study, a positive linear correlation exists between dicarboxylic acids and air temperature30. However, the maximum air temperature at Mt. Everest was observed in the summer monsoon season.

Table 1 Concentrations of dicarboxylic acids, oxocarboxylic acids and α-dicarbonyls (ng m−3) in the aerosols from QOMS station, the north slope of the Himalayas

Seasonal average molecular distributions of dicarboxylic acids, oxoacids and α-dicarbonyls in the aerosols are presented in Figure 1. Although large differences occurred among seasons, oxalic acid (C2) was detected as the most abundant dicarboxylic acid species, followed by succinic (C4) and malonic acid (C3) in all seasons. Oxalic acid was commonly detected as the predominant species in various environments worldwide. However, a clear pattern that C4 being more abundant than C3, a typical signal of biomass burning emission31,32, was found in the Mt. Everest aerosols. Therefore, our finding indicates the importance of biomass burning influences in this area, the point to be further discussed below.

Figure 1

Molecular distributions of dicarboxylic acids and related compounds in different seasons at Mt. Everest (QOMS station), the northern slope of the Himalayas.


Primary versus secondary contribution reflected by ratios of dicarboxylic acids

Because succinic acid (C4) tends to be degraded into malonic acid (C3), the ratio of C3/C4 has widely been used as an indicator to evaluate the photochemical production of dicarboxylic acids18,21. The C3/C4 ratios in the Mt. Everest aerosols ranged from 0.11 to 0.81 with an average of 0.51, which is similar to some urban sites (such as 0.6 in New Delhi)27, while much lower than those from continental and remote marine sites. For example, the C3/C4 ratio from Qinghai Lake, northern TP is 2.2 due to the photochemical production of C3 from C433. Even higher ratios are found over the Atlantic Ocean (2.1–3.4)21 and the equatorial central Pacific (up to 10)34. Low C3/C4 ratios in this study show that the aerosols from Mt. Everest were relatively fresh, again indicating that the direct influence from primary emission source is more important than photochemical oxidation.

The unsaturated dicarboxylic acid, maleic acid (M, cis configuration), is formed by the degradation of aromatic hydrocarbons (e.g. toluene and benzene). Under the solar radiation, it could be further isomerized to its trans isomer, fumaric acid (F), through photochemical processes30. Therefore, the ratios of M/F can be applied to assess the aging of aerosols, i.e, lower M/F ratio means higher photochemical aging. In the present study, the M/F ratios (1.55–8.16, average 4.44) are much higher than those at marine sites (e.g. the North Pacific, 0.06–1.3, average 0.26)34. While the M/F ratios of Mt. Everest aerosols are similar to those reported at urban sites (New Delhi, 2.0–3.6; Beijing, 2.3)27,35 and sites intensively impacted by biomass burning (Mt. Tai, China, 2.0; Rondonia, Amazonia, 2.8)31,32. The high M/F ratios found in this study also suggest that isomerization of maleic acid to fumaric acid by photochemical transformation is not significant at Mt. Everest. This finding confirms that Mt. Everest aerosols are rather fresh, without being substantially aged.

Source attribution – the influence of biomass burning

Dicarboxylic acids have various sources, including primary sources such as biomass burning, vehicular exhausts and cooking and secondary sources i.e. atmospheric photooxidation of organic precursors. Since EC is only emitted by combustion sources (fossil fuel and/or biomass burning), it has been used frequently as a conservative tracer for primary combustion-generated OC. In this study, the dicarboxylic acids exhibit a strong correlation with EC (R2 = 0.77, Fig. 2a), which demonstrates that primary combustion sources are the predominant contributor to dicarboxylic acids, while secondary photochemical production is negligible. Levoglucosan is a specific tracer of biomass burning, because it can only be produced through the pyrolysis of cellulose during the combustion process36. For the aerosols from Mt. Everest, a strong positive correlation between levoglucosan and dicarboxylic acids was found (Fig. 2b), with a correlation coefficient (R2) of 0.83. Furthermore, dicarboxylic acids also closely correlated with another biomass burning tracer, water-soluble potassium (K+) (Fig. 2c) (Note here, only the samples with K+ concentration above the detection limits were used for the correlation analysis.). Therefore, these results suggested that among the various primary combustion sources, biomass burning rather than fossil fuel (coal combustion or vehicular exhaust) is the prevalent source of dicarboxylic acids at Mt. Everest. Especially in the pre-monsoon season, the higher ratios of levoglucosan to EC emphasize the importance of biomass burning influence (Fig. S1). Our findings differs from a previous study at Qinghai Lake (3200 m a.s.l.) over the northern TP (similar background conditions to this study), where dicarboxylic acids are found to be mainly derived from photochemical oxidation due to strong radiation33.

Figure 2

Relationship between the concentrations of total dicarboxylic acids and (a) Elemental Carbon (EC), (b) Levoglucosan and (c) water-soluble potassium (K+).

Potential source region and transport mechanism

Because molecular distributions and ratios of organic acids in the Mt. Everest aerosols exhibited a strong influence from biomass burning, we further checked such emission strength for different seasons using the active fire spots from MODIS (FIRMS, Results showed that in the pre-monsoon period there were a great number of agricultural burning and forest fires along the southern Himalayan foothills and Northern IGP (Figure S2). Similarly, a recent work (BC and O3) conducted at the Nepal Climate Observatory-Pyramid station (NCO-P) on the southern slope of the Himalayas also pointed out the importance of open fire emission from that area37. Our finding is also in agreement with the viewpoint of Vadrevu et al.38, that the pre-monsoon period (especially April) is the major fire season in the lowland of the southern Himalayas. The meteorological regime of this region is characterized by humid air masses from the Indian Ocean in the summer monsoon season and strong westerlies in other seasons (Fig. S3). Therefore, the wind system could facilitate the transport of air pollutants from South Asia to the Himalayas, regardless the shift of air circulation pattern among seasons. The aerosol vertical distribution achieved by Cloud-Aerosol Lidar with Orthogonal Polarization (CALIOP) retrievals demonstrates that smoke plume could reach beyond 6 km in altitude, which is higher than most of the mountain valleys in the Himalayas. An example of such pollution phenomenon can be observed on 17 April 2010 (Fig. 3), which clearly demonstrates that the Himalayas and the southern TP (marked with circles) are covered by a thick polluted aerosol layer, which apparently originated from South Asia.

Figure 3

CALIPSO retrieved backscatter signal at 532 nm (upper panel) and aerosol sub-type information (lower panel) on 17 April 2010.

The Himalayas and southern TP (marked with circles) are covered by a thick aerosol layer, suggesting that air pollutants could be uplifted to more than 6 km high in altitude. CALIPSO profiles were obtained from (

In addition to large-scale atmospheric circulation, the local orography may also play an important role in air pollutant transport. The mountain/valley wind system in the southern Himalayas is characterized by an evident up-valley wind in daytime with a maximum in the afternoon, which delivers substantial pollutants from South Asian lowland to higher altitude (e.g. NCO-P)6,39. In contrast, a predominant down-valley wind occurs on the northern slope of the Himalayas with peaks in the afternoon, because the downward “glacier wind” produced by the vast snow/ice cover in the northern Himalayas can overcome the normal up-valley air flow in daytime40,41. Therefore, acting as efficient channels of south-to-north air flow, the mountain valleys could allow the air pollutants to easily penetrate throughout the Himalayas (Fig. 4). A previous work42 has revealed a trans-Himalayan pollution episode from Khumbu Valley, Nepal to the Tibetan Plateau (Rongbuk Valley) based on the simultaneous observation of condensation nucleus. When carbonaceous aerosols emitted from South Asia are transported to the far north (i.e. inland on the TP) and eventually deposited and accumulated on glacier surfaces, undoubtedly, they will change the energy balance of glaciers43.

Figure 4

Illustration of the aerosol transport mechanism from the lowlands of South Asia to across the Himalayas by the mountain/valley wind system (generated by Z.Y. Cong).


Research site and sampling

During August 2009 to July 2010, total suspended particle (TSP) samples (n = 50) were collected weekly using a medium-volume sampler with pre-combusted quartz filters at Mt. Everest (Qomolangma Station for Atmospheric and Environmental Observation and Research, 28.36°N, 86.95°E; 4276 m above sea level). Given the remote location and very sparse local population, QOMS is an ideal place to monitor the atmospheric environment in the Himalayas44. According to meteorological measurements, the seasonality at QOMS was divided into pre-monsoon, monsoon, post-monsoon and winter (Table S2).

After the water extraction and butyl ester derivatization, dicarboxylic acids (C2-C12), oxocarboxylic acids (C2-C9) and α-dicarbonyls (glyoxal and methylglyoxal) (Fig. S4) in the aerosol samples were determined using gas chromatography with a flame ionization detector (GC-FID) following the modified analytical methods established by Kawamura and Ikushima18 and Kawamura45.

The concentration of OC and EC was measured using an OC/EC analyzer following the IMPROVE-A protocol. Levoglucosan was determined by GC/MS after the extraction of the samples with a methanol/methylene chloride mixture followed by BSTFA derivatization46. The water-soluble ionic species were determined using an ion chromatograph (761 Compact IC, Metrohm). Details about the analytical procedures for dicarboxylic acids, oxocarboxylic acids, α-dicarbonyls, OC, EC and K+, as well as quality assurance and control are presented in the Supplementary Materials. All the concentrations of dicarboxylic acids and related compounds, carbonaceous and ionic components in this study are field-blank corrected.


  1. Kang, S. et al. Review of climate and cryospheric change in the Tibetan Plateau. Environ. Res. Lett. 5, 015101 (2010).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Yao, T. et al. Third Pole Environment (TPE). Environ. Dev. 3, 52–64 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Lutz, A., Immerzeel, W., Shrestha, A. & Bierkens, M. Consistent increase in High Asia's runoff due to increasing glacier melt and precipitation. Nat. Clim. Change 4, 587–592 (2014).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Schaner, N., Voisin, N., Nijssen, B. & Lettenmaier, D. P. The contribution of glacier melt to streamflow. Environ. Res. Lett. 7, 034029 (2012).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Ramanathan, V. et al. Atmospheric brown clouds: Impacts on South Asian climate and hydrological cycle. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 102, 5326–5333 (2005).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bonasoni, P. et al. Atmospheric Brown Clouds in the Himalayas: first two years of continuous observations at the Nepal Climate Observatory-Pyramid (5079 m). Atmos. Chem. Phys. 10, 7515–7531 (2010).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Lawrence, M. G. Atmospheric science: Asia under a high-level brown cloud. Nat. Geosci. 4, 352–353 (2011).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Rahul, P. R. C. et al. Double blanket effect caused by two layers of black carbon aerosols escalates warming in the Brahmaputra River Valley. Sci. Rep. 4, 10.1038/srep03670 (2014).

  9. Gardner, A. S. et al. A Reconciled Estimate of Glacier Contributions to Sea Level Rise: 2003 to 2009. Science 340, 852–857 (2013).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Qian, Y., Flanner, M. G., Leung, L. R. & Wang, W. Sensitivity studies on the impacts of Tibetan Plateau snowpack pollution on the Asian hydrological cycle and monsoon climate. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 11, 1929–1948 (2011).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Menon, S. et al. Black carbon aerosols and the third polar ice cap. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 10, 4559–4571 (2010).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Lau, W. K. M., Kim, M.-K., Kim, K.-M. & Lee, W.-S. Enhanced surface warming and accelerated snow melt in the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau induced by absorbing aerosols. Environ. Res. Lett. 5, 025204 (2010).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Ming, J. et al. Darkening of the mid-Himalaya glaciers since 2000 and the potential causes. Environ. Res. Lett. 7, 014021 (2012).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Narukawa, M., Kawamura, K., Takeuchi, N. & Nakajima, T. Distribution of dicarboxylic acids and carbon isotopic compositions in aerosols from 1997 Indonesian forest fires. Geophys. Res. Lett. 26, 3101–3104 (1999).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Claeys, M. et al. Formation of secondary organic aerosols through photooxidation of isoprene. Science 303, 1173–1176 (2004).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Kawamura, K., Kasukabe, H. & Barrie, L. A. Source and reaction pathways of dicarboxylic acids, ketoacids and dicarbonyls in arctic aerosols: One year of observations. Atmos. Environ. 30, 1709–1722 (1996).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Zhang, R. et al. Atmospheric new particle formation enhanced by organic acids. Science 304, 1487–1490 (2004).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Kawamura, K. & Ikushima, K. Seasonal changes in the distribution of dicarboxylic acids in the urban atmosphere. Environ. Sci. Technol. 27, 2227–2235 (1993).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. van Pinxteren, D., Neusüß, C. & Herrmann, H. On the abundance and source contributions of dicarboxylic acids in size-resolved aerosol particles at continental sites in Central Europe. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 14, 3913–3928 (2014).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Legrand, M. et al. Origin of C2-C5 dicarboxylic acids in the European atmosphere inferred from year-round aerosol study conducted at a west-east transect. J. Geophys. Res. -Atmos 112, 10.1029/2006JD008019 (2007).

  21. Fu, P., Kawamura, K., Usukura, K. & Miura, K. Dicarboxylic acids, ketocarboxylic acids and glyoxal in the marine aerosols collected during a round-the-world cruise. Mar. Chem. 148, 22–32 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Kawamura, K., Kasukabe, H. & Barrie, L. A. Secondary formation of water-soluble organic acids and α-dicarbonyls and their contributions to total carbon and water-soluble organic carbon: Photochemical aging of organic aerosols in the Arctic spring. J. Geophys. Res. -Atmos 115, 10.1029/2010JD014299 (2010).

  23. Kang, S., Dahe, Q., Mayewski, P. A. & Wake, C. P. Recent 180 Year Oxalate (C2O42-) Records Recovered from the Mount Everest Ice Core: Some Environmental Implications. J. Glaciol. 47, 155–156 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Kawamura, K., Imai, Y. & Barrie, L. A. Photochemical production and loss of organic acids in high Arctic aerosols during long-range transport and polar sunrise ozone depletion events. Atmos. Environ. 39, 599–614 (2005).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Kawamura, K. et al. Water soluble dicarboxylic acids and related compounds in Antarctic aerosols. J. Geophys. Res. -Atmos 101, 18721–18728 (1996).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Mochida, M. et al. Seasonal variation and origins of dicarboxylic acids in the marine atmosphere over the western North Pacific. J. Geophys. Res. -Atmos 108, 10.1029/2002JD002355 (2003).

  27. Miyazaki, Y. et al. Dicarboxylic acids and water-soluble organic carbon in aerosols in New Delhi, India, in winter: Characteristics and formation processes. J. Geophys. Res. -Atmos 114, 10.1029/2009JD011790 (2009).

  28. Pavuluri, C. M., Kawamura, K. & Swaminathan, T. Water-soluble organic carbon, dicarboxylic acids, ketoacids and α-dicarbonyls in the tropical Indian aerosols. J. Geophys. Res. -Atmos 115, 10.1029/2009JD012661 (2010).

  29. Ho, K. F. et al. Dicarboxylic acids, ketocarboxylic acids and dicarbonyls in the urban roadside area of Hong Kong. Atmos. Environ. 40, 3030–3040 (2006).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Sempéré, R. & Kawamura, K. Trans-hemispheric contribution of C2C10 α, ω-dicarboxylic acids and related polar compounds to water-soluble organic carbon in the western Pacific aerosols in relation to photochemical oxidation reactions. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycle 17, 10.1029/2002GB001980 (2003).

  31. Kawamura, K. et al. High abundances of water-soluble dicarboxylic acids, ketocarboxylic acids and α-dicarbonyls in the mountaintop aerosols over the North China Plain during wheat burning season. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 13, 8285–8302 (2013).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Kundu, S. et al. Molecular distributions of dicarboxylic acids, ketocarboxylic acids and α-dicarbonyls in biomass burning aerosols: implications for photochemical production and degradation in smoke layers. Atmos. Chem. Phys. 10, 2209–2225 (2010).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Meng, J. et al. Atmospheric oxalic acid and related secondary organic aerosols in Qinghai Lake, a continental background site in Tibet Plateau. Atmos. Environ. 79, 582–589 (2013).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Kawamura, K. & Sakaguchi, F. Molecular distributions of water soluble dicarboxylic acids in marine aerosols over the Pacific Ocean including tropics. J. Geophys. Res. -Atmos 104, 3501–3510 (1999).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Ho, K. F. et al. Dicarboxylic acids, ketocarboxylic acids, α-dicarbonyls, fatty acids and benzoic acid in urban aerosols collected during the 2006 Campaign of Air Quality Research in Beijing (CAREBeijing-2006). J. Geophys. Res. -Atmos 115, 10.1029/2009JD013304 (2010).

  36. Simoneit, B. R. T. Biomass burning — a review of organic tracers for smoke from incomplete combustion. Appl. Geochem. 17, 129–162 (2002).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Putero, D. et al. Influence of open vegetation fires on black carbon and ozone variability in the southern Himalayas (NCO-P, 5079 m a.s.l.). Environ. Pollut. 184, 597–604 (2014).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Vadrevu, K. P. et al. Vegetation fires in the himalayan region - Aerosol load, black carbon emissions and smoke plume heights. Atmos. Environ. 47, 241–251 (2012).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Marinoni, A. et al. Aerosol mass and black carbon concentrations, a two year record at NCO-P (5079 m, Southern Himalayas). Atmos. Chem. Phys. 10, 8551–8562 (2010).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Zou, H. et al. Local wind system in the Rongbuk Valley on the northern slope of Mt. Everest. Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, 10.1029/2008GL033466 (2008).

  41. Chen, X., Su, Z., Ma, Y. & Sun, F. Analysis of Land-Atmosphere Interactions over the North Region of Mt. Qomolangma (Mt. Everest). Arct. Antarct. Alp. Res. 44, 412–422 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Hindman, E. E. & Upadhyay, B. P. Air pollution transport in the Himalayas of Nepal and Tibet during the 1995–1996 dry season. Atmos. Environ. 36, 727–739 (2002).

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Qian, Y. et al. Light-absorbing particles in snow and ice: Measurement and modeling of climatic and hydrological impact. Adv. Atmos. Sci. 32, 64–91 (2015).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Cong, Z. Y. et al. Elemental and individual particle analysis of atmospheric aerosols from high Himalayas. Environ. Monit. Assess. 160, 323–335 (2010).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  45. Kawamura, K. Identification of C2-C10 ω-oxocarboxylic acids, pyruvic acid and C2-C3 α-dicarbonyls in wet precipitation and aerosol samples by capillary GC and GC/MS. Anal. Chem. 65, 3505–3511 (1993).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Fu, P. et al. Organic molecular compositions and temporal variations of summertime mountain aerosols over Mt. Tai, North China Plain. J. Geophys. Res. -Atmos 113, 10.1029/2008JD009900 (2008).

Download references


This study is supported by National Natural Science Foundation of China (41271073, 41075089 and 41225002), Strategic Priority Research Program-Climate Change: Carbon Budget and Relevant Issues (XDA05100105), CAS and also by the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (24221001). P.Q.F. appreciates the financial support from the “One Hundred Talents” program of CAS. We thank Zhongyan WANG and Yaoming MA for their sampling support at QOMS, Eri TACHIBANA, Kaori ONO, Daisuke SAWAOKA and Shaopeng GAO for the help in chemical analysis. The MODIS FIRMS, CALIPSO of NASA and HYSPLIT (ARL) of NOAA are also acknowledged.

Author information




All authors designed the research framework. Z.Y.C. conducted the fieldwork. Z.Y.C., P.Q.F. and K.K. performed the laboratory analysis and data interpretation. Z.Y.C., K.K. and S.C.K contributed to the manuscript preparation.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Electronic supplementary material

Rights and permissions

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder in order to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Cong, Z., Kawamura, K., Kang, S. et al. Penetration of biomass-burning emissions from South Asia through the Himalayas: new insights from atmospheric organic acids. Sci Rep 5, 9580 (2015).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing