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Keywords:

  • soot;
  • aerosol;
  • Arctic

[1] Black carbon (BC) particles, derived from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass, may have a severe impact on the sensitive Arctic climate, possibly altering the temperature profile, cloud temperature and amount, the seasonal cycle, and the tropopause level and accelerating polar ice melting. We use the Goddard Institute for Space Studies general circulation model to investigate the origins of Arctic BC by isolating various source regions and types. The model suggests that the predominant sources of Arctic soot today are from south Asia (industrial and biofuel emissions) and from biomass burning. These are the primary global sources of BC (approximately 20% and 55%, respectively, of the global emissions), and BC aerosols in these regions are readily lofted to high altitudes where they may be transported poleward. According to the model the Arctic BC optical thickness is mostly from south Asia (30%) and from biomass (28%) (with slightly more than half of biomass coming from north of 40°N); North America, Russia, and Europe each contribute 10–15%. Russia, Europe, and south Asia each contribute about 20–25% of BC to the low-altitude springtime “Arctic haze.” In the Arctic upper troposphere/lower stratosphere during the springtime, south Asia (30–50%) and low-latitude biomass (20–30%) are dominant, with a significant aircraft contribution (10–20%). Industrial S emissions are estimated to be weighted relatively more toward Russia and less toward south Asia (compared with BC). As a result, Russia contributes the most to Arctic sulfate optical thickness (24%); however, the south Asian contribution is also substantial (17%). Uncertainties derive from source estimates, model vertical mixing, and aerosol removal processes. Nevertheless, our results suggest that distant sources contribute more to Arctic pollution than is generally assumed.