The first regional synthesis of long-term (back to ~ 25 years at some stations) primary data (from direct measurement) on aerosol optical depth from the ARFINET (network of aerosol observatories established under the Aerosol Radiative Forcing over India (ARFI) project of Indian Space Research Organization over Indian subcontinent) have revealed a statistically significant increasing trend with a significant seasonal variability. Examining the current values of turbidity coefficients with those reported ~ 50 years ago reveals the phenomenal nature of the increase in aerosol loading. Seasonally, the rate of increase is consistently high during the dry months (December to March) over the entire region whereas the trends are rather inconsistent and weak during the premonsoon (April to May) and summer monsoon period (June to September). The trends in the spectral variation of aerosol optical depth (AOD) reveal the significance of anthropogenic activities on the increasing trend in AOD. Examining these with climate variables such as seasonal and regional rainfall, it is seen that the dry season depicts a decreasing trend in the total number of rainy days over the Indian region. The insignificant trend in AOD observed over the Indo-Gangetic Plain, a regional hot spot of aerosols, during the premonsoon and summer monsoon season is mainly attributed to the competing effects of dust transport and wet removal of aerosols by the monsoon rain. Contributions of different aerosol chemical species to the total dust, simulated using Goddard Chemistry Aerosol Radiation and Transport model over the ARFINET stations, showed an increasing trend for all the anthropogenic components and a decreasing trend for dust, consistent with the inference deduced from trend in Angstrom exponent.
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