Science Advances publishes the results of TPU scientists’ study on emission sources of black carbon in the Arctic

The Science Advances (IF: 11.5), one of the most reputable scientific journals, has published a key article devoted to the study of emission sources of black carbon (BC) into the atmosphere of the Arctic. In this work, Russia is represented by four researchers from TPU International Research Laboratory for Arctic Seas Carbon. The organizer and scientific supervisor of the laboratory is Associate Member of RAS, Professor Igor Semiletov told about the significance of the publication. 

- Prof Semiletov, why is this study so important that it was published in one of the most reputable scientific journals?

- The article called Source apportionment of circum-Arctic atmospheric black carbon from isotopes and modeling, for the first time presents the analysis of source apportion for soot aerosols or BC into the atmosphere throughout the Arctic in different seasons. The article is co-authored by scientists from seven countries, including Austria, the Netherlands and five key Arctic states (Russia, USA, Canada, Norway, and Sweden) – participants of the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC).

The significance of atmospheric pollution is determined by its global climate and environmental effect. In recent decades, it has become known that BC emissions into the atmosphere have three types of effect on the climate: a direct effect, the reduction of snow reflectivity (albedo), and cloud pollution. The direct effect is that, by absorbing solar radiation in all wavelengths, BC facilitates atmosphere heating. BC polluting snow and ice darkens the surface, reduces reflectivity and thus increase absorbing and melting. In addition, BC interacts with clouds that affect their development, stability of the amount of rainfall, reflectivity (albedo). These effects make the Arctic a particularly vulnerable part of the planet. Besides, BC negatively affects human health, ecosystems, and atmospheric visibility. Short-term and lasting exposure to BC aerosols leads to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as premature deaths of the population.  Therefore, the study of BC transport is part of priority study within earth sciences along with the processes responsible for the atmospheric emission of greenhouse gases.

In the present study, the seasonal contribution of various Arctic areas to BC emissions was revealed based on complex elemental and isotopic analysis of BC, known characteristics of the main sources and the most contemporary transport models of atmospheric circulation. The main BC sources were dominated by emissions from fossil fuel combustion in winter and by biomass burning, i.e. wildfires and other sources, in summer. The annual mean source of BC to the circum-Arctic made 39 ± 10% from biomass burning.

The outcomes obtained are extremely important for the BC sources inventory and their seasonality that are necessary conditions for the elaboration of preventive measures taken by the International Arctic Science Committee.

What place does BC study take in your laboratory which is focused on the sources of main greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, and methane, in the seas of the Arctic Ocean?

- Within the study of carbon migration carried out by our laboratory in 2014-2018 in the Arctic system land-shelf-atmosphere, we together with partners from Stockholm University obtained unexpected outcomes. It turned that about 5-10% of BC accumulated during last dozens of thousands of years in the coastal Arctic ice complex which is being quickly degraded, that is revealed in the relocation of a huge amount of ground organic matter (OM) into the Arctic Ocean, are included in the erosion ground organic matter entering the shelf of the East Arctic Seas (EAS). Therefore, it was decided to add BC research in the strategy of laboratory operation. This is the third article devoted to BC research, which was published by the laboratory’s researchers. Earlier there were publications in world’s leading journals such as Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences (PNAS) и Global Biogeochemical Cycles. The integral cumulated IF of these publications is about 30 that makes up about 10% of the integral cumulated IF of publications devoted to the degradation of underwater and coastal permafrost.

 - How do you estimate the short-term prospects of the laboratory development, what new directions of research do you plan?

- Our laboratory was established at TPU in 2014 as part of the program of megagrants of the Government of the Russian Federation, which is constantly supported by the RF President. During this time, based on the science and technology platform of the laboratory we created the International Siberian Arctic Scientific Center which brought together leading experts on Arctic studies from 14 universities in six countries (Russia, Sweden UK, USA, the Netherlands, and Italy), that strengthens the leading role of Russian scientists in the Arctic study. However, a five-year funding of megagrants from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education expired in December 2018.

Our hope on keeping a world level of research conducted by the laboratory is based on expected support in 2019 from a new program of the Russian Science Foundation, which was established to continue research at successful world-class laboratories in Russia. In case of approval, we plan to develop joint complex research (geological, biogeochemical, geophysical, and meteorological) in shallow and deep parts of the Arctic Seas of Russia together with leading marine centers of MSU Technopark, including Marine Research Center and MSU-Geophysics which will finish the construction of a small-tonnage multipurpose research vessel at the Russian shipyards in summer 2019. Our foreign partners have already taken a great interest in cooperation on this matter.