Isotopic composition of daily precipitation along the southern foothills of the Himalayas: impact of marine and continental sources of atmospheric moisture

Jeelani, Ghulam; Deshpande, Rajendrakumar D.; Galkowski, Michal; Rozanski, Kazimierz

The flow of the Himalayan rivers, a key source of fresh water for more than a billion people primarily depends upon the strength, behaviour and duration of the Indian summer monsoon (ISM) and the western disturbances (WD), two contrasting circulation regimes of the regional atmosphere. An analysis of the inline-formula2H and inline-formula18O isotope composition of daily precipitation collected along the southern foothills of the Himalayas, combined with extensive backward trajectory modelling, was used to gain deeper insight into the mechanisms controlling the isotopic composition of precipitation and the origin of atmospheric moisture and precipitation during ISM and WD periods. Daily precipitation samples were collected during the period from September 2008 to December 2011 at six stations, extending from Srinagar in the west (Kashmir state) to Dibrugarh in the east (Assam state). In total, 548 daily precipitation samples were collected and analysed for their stable isotope composition. It is suggested that the gradual reduction in the inline-formula2H and inline-formula18O content of precipitation in the study region, progressing from inline-formulaδ18O values close to zero down to ca. inline-formula−10 ‰ in the course of ISM evolution, stems from regional, large-scale recycling of moisture-driven monsoonal circulation. Superimposed on this general trend are short-term fluctuations of the isotopic composition of rainfall, which might have stem from local effects such as enhanced convective activity and the associated higher degree of rainout of moist air masses (local amount effect), the partial evaporation of raindrops, or the impact of isotopically heavy moisture generated in evapotranspiration processes taking place in the vicinity of rainfall sampling sites. Seasonal footprint maps constructed for three stations representing the western, central and eastern portions of the Himalayan region indicate that the influence of monsoonal circulation reaches the western edges of the Himalayan region. While the characteristic imprint of monsoonal air masses (increase of monthly rainfall amount) can be completely absent in the western Himalayas, the onset of the ISM period in this region is still clearly visible in the isotopic composition of daily precipitation. A characteristic feature of daily precipitation collected during the WD period is the gradual increase of inline-formula2H and inline-formula18O content, reaching positive inline-formulaδ2H and inline-formulaδ18O values towards the end of the period. This trend can be explained by the growing importance of moisture of continental origin as a source of daily precipitation. High deuterium-excess (inline-formulad-excess) values of daily rainfall recorded at the monitoring stations (38 cases in total, range from 20.6 to 44.0 ‰) are attributed to moisture of continental origin released into the atmosphere during the evaporation of surface water bodies and/or soil water evaporation.

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Jeelani, Ghulam / Deshpande, Rajendrakumar D. / Galkowski, Michal / et al: Isotopic composition of daily precipitation along the southern foothills of the Himalayas: impact of marine and continental sources of atmospheric moisture. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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