Articles | Volume 14, issue 4
Research article
18 Feb 2014
Research article |  | 18 Feb 2014

Precipitation isoscape of high reliefs: interpolation scheme designed and tested for monthly resolved precipitation oxygen isotope records of an Alpine domain

Z. Kern, B. Kohán, and M. Leuenberger

Abstract. Stable oxygen isotope composition of atmospheric precipitation (δ18Op) was scrutinized from 39 stations distributed over Switzerland and its border zone. Monthly amount-weighted δ18Op values averaged over the 1995–2000 period showed the expected strong linear altitude dependence (−0.15 to −0.22‰ per 100 m) only during the summer season (May–September). Steeper gradients (~ −0.56 to −0.60‰ per 100 m) were observed for winter months over a low elevation belt, while hardly any altitudinal difference was seen for high elevation stations. This dichotomous pattern could be explained by the characteristically shallower vertical atmospheric mixing height during winter season and provides empirical evidence for recently simulated effects of stratified atmospheric flow on orographic precipitation isotopic ratios. This helps explain "anomalous" deflected altitudinal water isotope profiles reported from many other high relief regions. Grids and isotope distribution maps of the monthly δ18Op have been calculated over the study region for 1995–1996. The adopted interpolation method took into account both the variable mixing heights and the seasonal difference in the isotopic lapse rate and combined them with residual kriging. The presented data set allows a point estimation of δ18Op with monthly resolution. According to the test calculations executed on subsets, this biannual data set can be extended back to 1992 with maintained fidelity and, with a reduced station subset, even back to 1983 at the expense of faded reliability of the derived δ18Op estimates, mainly in the eastern part of Switzerland. Before 1983, reliable results can only be expected for the Swiss Plateau since important stations representing eastern and south-western Switzerland were not yet in operation.

Final-revised paper