Articles | Volume 17, issue 9
Research article
17 May 2017
Research article |  | 17 May 2017

The stable isotopic composition of water vapour above Corsica during the HyMeX SOP1 campaign: insight into vertical mixing processes from lower-tropospheric survey flights

Harald Sodemann, Franziska Aemisegger, Stephan Pfahl, Mark Bitter, Ulrich Corsmeier, Thomas Feuerle, Pascal Graf, Rolf Hankers, Gregor Hsiao, Helmut Schulz, Andreas Wieser, and Heini Wernli

Abstract. Stable isotopes of water vapour are powerful indicators of meteorological processes on a broad range of scales, reflecting evaporation, condensation, and air mass mixing processes. With the recent advent of fast laser-based spectroscopic methods, it has become possible to measure the stable isotopic composition of atmospheric water vapour in situ at a high temporal resolution. Here we present results from such comprehensive airborne spectroscopic isotope measurements in water vapour over the western Mediterranean at a high spatial and temporal resolution. Measurements have been acquired by a customized Picarro L2130-i cavity-ring down spectrometer deployed onboard the Dornier 128 D-IBUF aircraft together with a meteorological flux measurement package during the HyMeX SOP1 (Hydrological cycle in Mediterranean Experiment special observation period 1) field campaign in Corsica, France, during September and October 2012. Taking into account memory effects of the air inlet pipe, the typical time resolution of the measurements was about 15–30 s, resulting in an average horizontal resolution of about 1–2 km. Cross-calibration of the water vapour measurements from all humidity sensors showed good agreement under most flight conditions but the most turbulent ones. In total 21 successful stable isotope flights with 59 flight hours have been performed. Our data provide quasi-climatological autumn average conditions and vertical profiles of the stable isotope parameters δD, δ18O, and d-excess during the study period. A d-excess minimum in the overall average profile is reached in the region of the boundary-layer top, possibly caused by precipitation evaporation. This minimum is bracketed by higher d-excess values near the surface caused by non-equilibrium fractionation, and a maximum above the boundary layer related to the increasing d-excess in very depleted and dry high-altitude air masses. Repeated flights along the same pattern reveal pronounced day-to-day variability due to changes in the large-scale circulation. During a period marked by a strong inversion at the top of the marine boundary layer, vertical gradients in stable isotopes reached up to 25.4 ‰ 100 m−1 for δD and 24.0 ‰ 100 m−1 for the d-excess.

Short summary
We report here the first survey of stable water isotope composition over the Mediterranean sea made from aircraft. The stable isotope composition of the atmospheric water vapour changed in response to evaporation conditions at the sea surface, elevation, and airmass transport history. Our data set will be valuable for testing how water is transported in weather prediction and climate models and for understanding processes in the Mediterranean water cycle.
Final-revised paper