Pollution and its Impacts on the South American Cryosphere

Luisa T. Molina, Laura Gallardo, M. Andrade, D. Baumgardner, M. Borbor-Cõrdova, R. Bõrquez, G. Casassa, F. Cereceda-Balic, L. Dawidowski, R. Garreaud, N. Huneeus, F. Lambert, J. L. McCarty, J. Mc Phee, M. Mena-Carrasco, G. B. Raga, C. Schmitt, J. P. Schwarz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


This article is a review of the science goals and activities initiated within the framework of the Pollution and its Impacts on the South American Cryosphere (PISAC) initiative. Air pollution associated with biomass burning and urban emissions affects extensive areas of South America. We focus on black carbon (BC) aerosol and its impacts on air quality, water availability, and climate, with an emphasis on the Andean cryosphere. BC is one of the key short-lived climate pollutants that is a topic of growing interest for near-term mitigation of these issues. Limited scientific evidence indicates that the Andean cryosphere has already responded to climate change with receding glaciers and snow cover, which directly affect water resources, agriculture, and energy production in the Andean region of South America. Despite the paucity of systematic observations along the Andes, a few studies have detected BC on snow and glaciers in the Andes. These, in addition to existing and projected emissions and weather patterns, suggest a possible contribution of BC to the observed retreat of the Andean cryosphere. Here we provide an overview of the current understanding of these issues from scientific and policy perspectives, and propose strategic expansions to the relevant measurement infrastructure in the region. Key points A review of black carbon pollution impacts on the Andean cryosphere is presented The lack of observations in the Andean region hampers the understanding of glacier retreat Few mitigation measures relevant to short-lived pollutants have been adopted in the region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-369
Number of pages25
JournalEarth's Future
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Various writing meetings took place over the last 2 years. We acknowledge the support provided by the Molina Center for Strategic Studies in Energy and the Environment, the Center for Climate and Resilience Research (FONDAP 15110009) and Universidad de Chile, the Center for Sustainability, Universidad Andrés Bello, and Universidad de San Andrés in La Paz, Bolivia. Also, the sponsorship provided by the international Commission on Atmospheric Chemistry and Global Pollution (iCACGP). FL and NH acknowledge support from FONDECYT 1151427 and 1150873 respectively.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Authors.


  • Andes cryosphere
  • air pollution
  • black carbon
  • climate change
  • water resources


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