Andes and Black Carbon

The thin strip of Pacific coast in the Andean region is responsible for most of the pollution impact in the high Andes, especially given the several mega-cities (from Guayaquil in Ecuador, to Santiago in Chile) along the coastline.  Cookstoves in these urban regions, as well as from smaller cities and villages higher in the mountains, could have a significant impact on the rapid melting of snow and ice shown by the Andean tropical glaciers.  Traffic emissions from diesel vehicles may also prove a significant source of black carbon.

The concentrated nature of emissions, especially compared to other cryosphere regions makes them a low-hanging fruit for policy actions aiming to slow snow and ice melt by decreasing black carbon emissions.  ICCI in 2013 began a cooperative effort with the University of Chile and the Molina Center to begin exploring the importance of black carbon in the Andes and Patagonia, co-sponsoring a first meeting of scientists in Santiago from October 10-11. As a next step, the group plans to produce a “white paper” outlining research gaps on black carbon, such as needs for glacier sampling and emissions monitoring.ICCI currently is seeking support to organize a second scientific meeting that would also include a day of science-policy Chatham House rules discussions between researchers and policy makers from the region, building on the similar steps followed in the Arctic region. We hope this dialogue can provide the beginnings of early “no-regrets” actions by governments and organizations in the Andean region to cut pollution from certain sources such as diesel and cookstoves, even while the research agenda moves forward.

In addition, ICCI has sought funding from the CCAC to scope sources of open burning in the region, and to explore alternative crop methods. A first step will involve mapping the extent of burning in and around the Andes, which, funding permitting, will be completed by mid-year 2014.