Hydrology and Water Environment

Short-term variations of vapor isotope ratios reveal the influence of atmospheric processes

  • 1. Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China;
    2. Key Laboratory of Wetland Ecology and Environment, Northeast Institute of Geography and Agroecology, CAS, Changchun 130012, China;
    3. Qingdao Agricultural University, Qingdao 266109, Shandong, China

Received date: 2010-01-04

  Revised date: 2010-05-21

  Online published: 2011-06-15

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.30970517; No.31070408; Ministry of Science and Technology of China, No.2010CB833501; The Strategic Program of Knowledge Innovation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No.KZCX2-EW-QN305; Hundred Talents Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences


Stable isotopes of atmospheric water vapor reveal rich information on water movement and phase changes in the atmosphere. Here we presented two nearly continuous time-series of δD and δ18O of atmospheric water vapor (δv) measured at hourly intervals in surface air in Beijing and above a winter wheat canopy in Shijiazhuang using in-situ measurement technique. During the precipitation events, the δv values in both Beijing and Shijiazhuang were in the state of equilibrium with precipitation water, revealing the influence of precipitation processes. However, the δv departures from the equilibrium state were positively correlated with local relative humidity. Note that the δv tended to enrich in Beijing, but deplete in Shijiazhuang during the precipitation events, which mainly resulted from the influence of transpiration processes that enriched the δv in Shijiazhuang. On seasonal time-scale, the δv values were log-linear functions of water vapor mixing ratios in both Beijing and Shijiazhuang. The water vapor mixing ratio was an excellent predictor of the δv by the Rayleigh distillation mechanisms, indicating that air mass advection could also play an important role in determining the δv. On a diurnal time-scale, the δv reached the minimum in the early afternoon hours in Beijing which was closely related to the atmospheric processes of boundary layer entrainment. During the peak of growing season of winter wheat, however, the δv reached the minimum in the early morning, and increased gradually through the daytime, and reached the maximum in the late afternoon, which was responsible by the interaction between boundary layer entrainment and the local atmospheric processes, such as transpiration and dew formation. This study has the implications for the important role of vegetation in determining the surface δv and highlights the need to conduct δv measurement on short-term (e.g. diurnal) time scales.

Cite this article

ZHANG Shichun, SUN Xiaomin, WANG Jianlin, YU Guirui, WEN Xuefa . Short-term variations of vapor isotope ratios reveal the influence of atmospheric processes[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2011 , 21(3) : 401 -416 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-011-0853-6