The glaciers of central Asia provide suitable locations from which to recover continuous, high-resolution glaciochemical records on a continental scale. Although the glaciochemical investigations undertaken to date in central Asia are few in number and limited in terms of spatial coverage and length of record, some preliminary observations can be made concerning regional and seasonal trends in snow chemistry in this region.
The sodium chloride ratio for most snow samples collected in central Asia approaches the ratio found in sea water (0.86 in μeq kg−1), reflecting a marine source for these constituents. Sodium and chloride concentrations are, on average, 3–10 times higher in the Himalayas than in the Karakoram, demonstrating the greater influence of monsoonal sources of moisture in the Himalayas. Very high sodium concentrations from Khel Khod Glacier probably reflect a local crustal source from surrounding ice-free areas. Low nitrate concentrations were found in snow collected from the southern margin of the Himalayas and high concentrations in snow deposited on the north margin of the Himalayas. This strong regional trend in the spatial distribution of nitrate suggests the influx of continental aerosols, rich in nitrate, originating from the arid regions of central Asia. High calcium concentrations measured in snow from Mount Everest and the north-west corner of China are also indicative of dust derived from the arid regions of central Asia. Very high sulfate concentrations found in snow from the Tien Shan and the Bogda Shan most likely reflect local anthropogenic sources. The altitude effect on isotopie composition is not apparent from snow samples collected in central Asia.
Understanding the processes which control the chemical content of snow, the local-to-regional scale complexities, and the seasonal variability are fundamental steps necessary to assess the potential for recovering representative long-term glaciochemical records from central Asia.