Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions ›› 2018, Vol. 10 ›› Issue (1): 27-37.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2018.00027

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Precipitation isotopes in the Tianshan Mountains as a key to water cycle in arid central Asia

MingJun Zhang1, ShengJie Wang1,2   

  1. 1. College of Geography and Environmental Science, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou, Gansu 730070, China;
    2. State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China
  • Received:2017-12-11 Online:2018-02-01 Published:2018-11-23
  • Contact: ShengJie Wang,
  • Supported by:
    This research is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. 41771035 and 41161012), Northwest Normal University (No. NWNU-LKQN-15-8) and State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Sciences (No. SKLCS-OP-2017-04).

Abstract: The Tianshan Mountains is a wet island in arid central Asia, and precipitation amount across the mountains is much larger than that in the surrounding low-lying areas. To investigate the regional water cycle in arid central Asia, stable isotope composition in precipitation has received increased attention during the past decades. This paper reviewed current knowledge of observed and simulated stable isotope ratios in precipitation across the Tianshan Mountains. The temperature effect of stable isotopes in precipitation has been widely accepted in arid central Asia and can be applied to paleoclimate reconstruction using ice cores. The seasonality of precipitation isotopically enriched in summer months and depleted in winter months is usually attributed to westerly-dominated moisture, but different trajectory paths to the northern and southern slopes of the Tianshan Mountains can still be modelled. The proportional contribution and its uncertainty of surface evaporation and transpiration to local precipitation can be estimated using the isotope approach, and transpiration plays a dominant role in recycled moisture for oasis sites. The impact of below-cloud evaporation on precipitation stable isotopes on the southern slope is usually larger than that on the northern slope.

Key words: stable isotopes, precipitation, water cycle, Tianshan Mountains, central Asia

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