Mid-twentieth century increases in anthropogenic Pb, Cd and Cu in central Asia set in hemispheric perspective using Tien Shan ice core


High-resolution major and trace element (Al, As, Ca, Cd, Co, Cr, Cu, Fe, Li, Mn, Na, Pb, S, Ti, and V) ice core records from Inilchek glacier (5120 m above sea level) on the northwestern margin of the Tibetan Plateau provide the first multi-decadal ice core record spanning the period 1908–1995 AD in central Tien Shan. The trace element records reveal pronounced temporal baseline trends and concentration maxima characteristic of post-1950 anthropogenic emissions. Examination of Pb, Cd and Cu concentrations, along with non-crustal calculation estimates (i.e. excess (ex) and enrichment factor (EF)), reveal that discernable anthropogenic inputs began during the 1950s and rapidly increased to the late-1970s and early 1980s, by factors up to of 5, 6 and 3, respectively, relative to a 1910–1950 means. Pb, Cd and Cu concentrations between the 1950s-1980s are reflective of large-scale Soviet industrial and agricultural development, including the growth of production and/or consumption of the non-ferrous metals, coal and phosphate fertilizers. NOAA HYSPLIT back-trajectory frequency analysis suggests pollutant sources originating primarily from southern Kazakhstan (e.g. Shymkent and Balkhash) and the Fergana Valley (located in Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan). Inilchek ice core Pb, Cd and Cu reveals declines during the 1980s concurrent with Soviet economic declines, however, due to the rapid industrial and agricultural growth of western China, Pb, Cd and Cu trends increase during the 1990s reflecting a transition from primarily central Asian sources to emission sources from western China (e.g. Xinjiang Province).


Earth Sciences, Earth Systems Research Center

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Atmospheric Environment



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