The Tibetan Plateau (TP) is one of the world’s most sensitive areas for climate change. Previous studies have revealed that air pollutants emitted from South and Southeast Asia can be transported to and have a negative impact on the TP. However, the majority of the investigators have focused on the pollutant transport processes from South Asian regions (i.e., India and Bangladesh) and parts of Southeast Asia, while the regions adjacent to the southeast fringe of the TP (i.e., Burma and the Sino-Burmese border) have been neglected.
Here, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) samples were collected during the period 11 March to 13 May 2018 at Gaomeigu, a high-altitude remote site in the southeastern margin of the TP. Characteristics, sources of PM2.5, and the potential source regions for different chemical components were investigated. During the sampling time, PM2.5 mass loadings ranged from 3.79 to 54.57 µg m-3, with an arithmetic mean concentration of 20.99 ± 9.80 µg m-3. In general, major peaks of organic carbon (OC) and elemental carbon (EC) always coincided with high loadings of K+ and NO3–, which implies that common combustion sources caused these species’ concentrations to covary, while the daily variations of crustal elements showed different trends with the other chemical compositions, suggesting different source regions for crustal materials. Five source factors were identified as possible aerosol sources for PM2.5 by positive matrix factorization (PMF). They are the mining industry (5.3%), characterized by heavy metal elements; secondary formation (18.8%), described by the high concentrations of NH4+ and SO42-; traffic-related emissions (26.7%), dominated by carbonaceous species (especially soot-EC) and some metal elements; fugitive dust (15.2%), represented by crustal elements (Ti, Fe, and Mn), Ca2+, and Mg2+; and biomass burning (34.0%), which is typified by high concentrations of K+, NO3-, char-EC, primary OC, and secondary OC. The concentration-weighted trajectory (CWT) analysis results showed that the northeast part of Burma is the potential source region for high concentrations of EC and NO3– due to biomass burning emissions, while the tourism industry surrounding Gaomeigu gave strong grid cell values of SO42- as well as moderate values of EC and NO3-. Moreover, the mining industry in the southwest direction of Gaomeigu has important impacts on the zinc concentrations.