Journal article Open Access

The influence of the synoptic regime on stable water isotopes in precipitation at Dome C, East Antarctica

Elisabeth Schlosser; Anna Dittmann; Barbara Stenni; Jordan G. Powers; Kevin W. Manning; Valérie Masson-Delmotte; Mauro Valt; Anselmo Cagnati; Paolo Grigioni; Claudio Scarchilli

Abstract. The correct derivation of paleotemperatures from ice cores requires exact knowledge of all processes involved before and after the deposition of snow and the subsequent formation of ice. At the Antarctic deep ice core drilling site Dome C, a unique data set of daily precipitation amount, type, and stable water isotope ratios is available that enables us to study in detail atmospheric processes that influence the stable water isotope ratio of precipitation. Meteorological data from both automatic weather station and a mesoscale atmospheric model were used to investigate how different atmospheric flow patterns determine the precipitation parameters. A classification of synoptic situations that cause precipitation at Dome C was established and, together with back-trajectory calculations, was utilized to estimate moisture source areas. With the resulting source area conditions (wind speed, sea surface temperature, and relative humidity) as input, the precipitation stable isotopic composition was modeled using the so-called Mixed Cloud Isotope Model (MCIM). The model generally underestimates the depletion of 18O in precipitation, which was not improved by using condensation temperature rather than inversion temperature. Contrary to the assumption widely used in ice core studies, a more northern moisture source does not necessarily mean stronger isotopic fractionation. This is due to the fact that snowfall events at Dome C are often associated with warm air advection due to amplification of planetary waves, which considerably increases the site temperature and thus reduces the temperature difference between source area and deposition site. In addition, no correlation was found between relative humidity at the moisture source and the deuterium excess in precipitation. The significant difference in the isotopic signal of hoarfrost and diamond dust was shown to disappear after removal of seasonality. This study confirms the results of an earlier study carried out at Dome Fuji with a shorter data set using the same methods.

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