Articles | Volume 13, issue 3
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 1607–1623, 2013
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 13, 1607–1623, 2013

Research article 08 Feb 2013

Research article | 08 Feb 2013

Determining water sources in the boundary layer from tall tower profiles of water vapor and surface water isotope ratios after a snowstorm in Colorado

D. Noone1,2, C. Risi1,2,*, A. Bailey1,2, M. Berkelhammer1,2, D. P. Brown1,2, N. Buenning1,2,**, S. Gregory1,2, J. Nusbaumer1,2, D. Schneider1,2,***, J. Sykes1,2, B. Vanderwende1, J. Wong1,2, Y. Meillier2, and D. Wolfe2,3 D. Noone et al.
  • 1Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 2Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA
  • 3Physical Sciences Division, Earth System Research Laboratory, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, CO, USA
  • *now at: Laboratoire de Météorologie Dynamique, Paris, France
  • **now at: Department of Earth Sciences, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
  • ***now at: Climate and Global Dynamics Division, National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA

Abstract. The D/H isotope ratio is used to attribute boundary layer humidity changes to the set of contributing fluxes for a case following a snowstorm in which a snow pack of about 10 cm vanished. Profiles of H2O and CO2 mixing ratio, D/H isotope ratio, and several thermodynamic properties were measured from the surface to 300 m every 15 min during four winter days near Boulder, Colorado. Coeval analysis of the D/H ratios and CO2 concentrations find these two variables to be complementary with the former being sensitive to daytime surface fluxes and the latter particularly indicative of nocturnal surface sources. Together they capture evidence for strong vertical mixing during the day, weaker mixing by turbulent bursts and low level jets within the nocturnal stable boundary layer during the night, and frost formation in the morning. The profiles are generally not well described with a gradient mixing line analysis because D/H ratios of the end members (i.e., surface fluxes and the free troposphere) evolve throughout the day which leads to large uncertainties in the estimate of the D/H ratio of surface water flux. A mass balance model is constructed for the snow pack, and constrained with observations to provide an optimal estimate of the partitioning of the surface water flux into contributions from sublimation, evaporation of melt water in the snow and evaporation from ponds. Results show that while vapor measurements are important in constraining surface fluxes, measurements of the source reservoirs (soil water, snow pack and standing liquid) offer stronger constraint on the surface water balance. Measurements of surface water are therefore essential in developing observational programs that seek to use isotopic data for flux attribution.

Final-revised paper