Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2016, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (7): 921-938.doi: 10.1007/s11442-016-1307-y

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A review of precipitation isotope studies in China: Basic pattern and hydrological process

Mingjun ZHANG(), Shengjie *WANG()   

  1. College of Geography and Environmental Science, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, China
  • Received:2016-01-04 Accepted:2016-03-15 Online:2016-07-25 Published:2016-07-25
  • About author:

    Author: Zhang Mingjun, Professor, specialized in climate change and hydrological cycle. E-mail:

    *Corresponding author: Wang Shengjie, PhD, E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41461003, No.41161012;National Basic Research Program of China, No.2013CBA01801


In the paper, the development of precipitation isotope observation networks in China was reviewed, and recent achievements in isoscape and environmental effect of precipitation stable isotopes were summarized; the hydrological process studies based on precipitation isotopes in China during recent decade were also reviewed. In past decades, the spatial and seasonal patterns of precipitation isotopes have been investigated nationwide, especially after the participation in GNIP (Global Network of Isotopes in Precipitation) and the establishment of CHNIP (Chinese Network of Isotopes in Precipitation), although long-term measurements are still limited; besides the nationwide network, a series of regional networks has been widely established across China. From the traditional manual drawing to the computer-aided mapping, and then to the simulation using isotope-equipped models, the productions of precipitation isoscape have been improved. The main factors controlling precipitation isotopes were summarized, and the potential significances of isotopes in climate proxies were mentioned. The recent studies about influence of raindrop sub-cloud secondary evaporation on isotopes were reviewed; based on the precipitation isotope and other parameters, the contribution of recycled moisture (evaporation and transpiration) in local precipitation can be estimated using three- or two-component mixing models. Finally, some prospects of precipitation isotope studies in China were presented.

Key words: stable isotope, precipitation, China, isoscape, hydrological process