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The effect of Indian Summer Monsoon rainfall on surface water δD values in the central Himalaya

Meese, Bernd, Bookhagen, Bodo, Olen, Stephanie M., Barthold, Frauke, Sachse, Dirk
Hydrological processes 2018 v.32 no.24 pp. 3662-3674
altitude, biomarkers, data collection, evapotranspiration, hydrogen, ice, melting, monsoon season, oxygen, rain, remote sensing, rivers, runoff, seasonal variation, snowmelt, snowpack, spatial data, stable isotopes, streams, surface water, time series analysis, tropics, watersheds, China, Himalayan region, Nepal
Stable isotope proxy records, such as speleothems, plant‐wax biomarker records, and ice cores, are suitable archives for the reconstruction of regional palaeohydrologic conditions. But the interpretation of these records in the tropics, especially in the Indian Summer Monsoon (ISM) domain, is difficult due to differing moisture and water sources: precipitation from the ISM and Winter Westerlies, as well as snow‐ and glacial meltwater. In this study, we use interannual differences in ISM strength (2011–2012) to understand the stable isotopic composition of surface water in the Arun River catchment in eastern Nepal. We sampled main stem and tributary water (n = 204) for stable hydrogen and oxygen isotope analysis in the postmonsoon phase of two subsequent years with significantly distinct ISM intensities. In addition to the 2011/2012 sampling campaigns, we collected a 12‐month time series of main stem waters (2012/2013, n = 105) in order to better quantify seasonal effects on the variability of surface water δ¹⁸O/δD. Furthermore, remotely sensed satellite data of rainfall, snow cover, glacial coverage, and evapotranspiration was evaluated. The comparison of datasets from both years revealed that surface waters of the main stem Arun and its tributaries were D‐enriched by ~15‰ when ISM rainfall decreased by 20%. This strong response emphasizes the importance of the ISM for surface water run‐off in the central Himalaya. However, further spatio‐temporal analysis of remote sensing data in combination with stream water d‐excess revealed that most high‐altitude tributaries and the Tibetan part of the Arun receive high portions of glacial melt water and likely Winter Westerly Disturbances precipitation. We make the following two implications: First, palaeohydrologic archives found in high‐altitude tributaries and on the southern Tibetan Plateau record a mixture of past precipitation δD values and variable amounts of additional water sources. Second, surface water isotope ratios of lower elevated tributaries strongly reflect the isotopic composition of ISM rainfall implying a suitable region for the analysis of potential δD value proxy records.