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Journal article

Impact of Po Valley emissions on the highest glacier of the Eastern European Alps

Gabrieli J, Carturan L, Gabrielli P, Kehrwald N, Turetta C, Cozzi G, Spolaor A, Dinale R, Staffler H, Seppi R, Dalla Fontana G, Thompson L, Barbante C ...see all

Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, vol. 11, issue 15 (2011) pp. 8087-8102

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Abstract

In June 2009, we conducted the first extensive glaciological survey of
Alto dell'Ortles, the uppermost glacier of Mt. Ortles (3905 m a.s.l.),
the highest summit of the Eastern European Alps. This section of the
Alps is located in a rain shadow and is characterized by the lowest
precipitation rate in the entire Alpine arc. Mt. Ortles offers a unique
opportunity to test deposition mechanisms of chemical species that until
now were studied only in the climatically-different western sector. We
analyzed snow samples collected on Alto dell'Ortles from a 4.5 m
snow-pit at 3830 m a.s.l., and we determined a large suite of trace
elements and ionic compounds that comprise the atmospheric deposition
over the past two years.
Trace element concentrations measured in snow samples are extremely low
with mean concentrations at pg g(-1) levels. Only Al and Fe present
median values of 1.8 and 3.3 ng g-1, with maximum concentrations of 21
and 25 ng g-1. The median crustal enrichment factor (EFc) values for Be,
Rb, Sr, Ba, U, Li, Al, Ca, Cr, Mn, Fe, Co, Ga and V are lower than 10
suggesting that these elements originated mainly from soil and mineral
aerosol. EFc higher than 100 are reported for Zn (118), Ag (135), Bi
(185), Sb (401) and Cd (514), demonstrating the predominance of
non-crustal depositions and suggesting an anthropogenic origin.
Our data show that the physical stratigraphy and the chemical signals of
several species were well preserved in the uppermost snow of the Alto
dell'Ortles glacier. A clear seasonality emerges from the data as the
summer snow is more affected by anthropogenic and marine contributions
while the winter aerosol flux is dominated by crustal sources. For trace
elements, the largest mean EFc seasonal variations are displayed by V
(with a factor of 3.8), Sb (3.3), Cu (3.3), Pb (2.9), Bi (2.8), Cd
(2.1), Zn (1.9), Ni (1.8), Ag (1.8), As (1.7) and Co (1.6).
When trace species ratios in local and Po Valley emissions are compared
with those in Alto dell'Ortles snow, the deposition on Mt. Ortles is
clearly linked with Po Valley summer emissions. Despite climatic
differences between the Eastern and Western Alps, trace element ratios
from Alto dell'Ortles are comparable with those obtained from
high-altitude glaciers in the Western Alps, suggesting similar sources
and transport processes at seasonal time scales in these two distinct
areas. In particular, the large changes in trace element concentrations
both in the Eastern and Western Alps appear to be more related to the
regional vertical structure of the troposphere rather than the synoptic
weather patterns.

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