Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC San Diego

UC San Diego Previously Published Works bannerUC San Diego

Atmospheric sulfur isotopic anomalies recorded at Mt. Everest across the Anthropocene


Increased anthropogenic-induced aerosol concentrations over the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau have affected regional climate, accelerated snow/glacier melting, and influenced water supply and quality in Asia. Although sulfate is a predominant chemical component in aerosols and the hydrosphere, the contributions from different sources remain contentious. Here, we report multiple sulfur isotope composition of sedimentary sulfates from a remote freshwater alpine lake near Mount Everest to reconstruct a two-century record of the atmospheric sulfur cycle. The sulfur isotopic anomaly is utilized as a probe for sulfur source apportionment and chemical transformation history. The nineteenth-century record displays a distinct sulfur isotopic signature compared with the twentieth-century record when sulfate concentrations increased. Along with other elemental measurements, the isotopic proxy suggests that the increased trend of sulfate is mainly attributed to enhancements of dust-associated sulfate aerosols and climate-induced weathering/erosion, which overprinted sulfur isotopic anomalies originating from other sources (e.g., sulfates produced in the stratosphere by photolytic oxidation processes and/or emitted from combustion) as observed in most modern tropospheric aerosols. The changes in sulfur cycling reported in this study have implications for better quantification of radiative forcing and snow/glacier melting at this climatically sensitive region and potentially other temperate glacial hydrological systems. Additionally, the unique Δ33S-δ34S pattern in the nineteenth century, a period with extensive global biomass burning, is similar to the Paleoarchean (3.6-3.2 Ga) barite record, potentially providing a deeper insight into sulfur photochemical/thermal reactions and possible volcanic influences on the Earth's earliest sulfur cycle.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View