EGU21-9124, updated on 04 Mar 2021
EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

High-resolution stable isotope signature of a land-falling Atmospheric River in southern Norway

Weng Yongbiao, Aina Johannessen, and Harald Sodemann
Weng Yongbiao et al.
  • Geophysical Institute, University of Bergen, and Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Bergen, Norway (

Heavy precipitation at the west coast of Norway is often connected to high integrated water vapour transport within Atmospheric Rivers (AR). Here we present high-resolution measurements of stable isotopes in near-surface water vapour and precipitation during a land-falling AR event in southwestern Norway on 07 December 2016. We analyze the influences of moisture sources, weather system characteristics, and post-condensation processes on the isotopic signal in near-surface water vapour and precipitation.

During the 24-h sampling period, a total of 71 precipitation samples were collected, sampled at intervals of 10-20 min. The isotope composition of near-surface vapour was continuously monitored with a cavity ring-down spectrometer. In addition, local meteorological conditions were monitored from a vertical pointing rain radar, a laser disdrometer, and automatic weather stations.

During the event, we observe a "W"-shaped evolution of the stable isotope composition. Combining isotopic and meteorological observations, we define four different stages of the event. The two most depletion periods in the isotope δ values are associated with frontal transitions, namely a combination of two warm fronts that follow each other within a few hours, and an upper-level cold front. The d-excess shows a single maximum, and a step-wise decline in precipitation and a gradual decrease in near-surface vapour. Thereby, isotopic evolution of the near-surface vapour closely follows the precipitation with a time delay of about 30 min, except for the first stage of the event. Analysis using an isotopic below-cloud exchange model shows that the initial period of low and even negative d-excess in precipitation was most likely caused by evaporation below cloud base. At the ground, a near-constant signal representative of the airmass above is only reached after transition periods of several hours. For these steady periods, the moisture source conditions are partly reflected in the surface precipitation.

Based on our observations, we revisit the interpretation of precipitation isotope measurements during AR events in previous studies. Given that the isotopic signal in surface precipitation reflects a combination of atmospheric dynamics through moisture sources and atmospheric distillation, as well as cloud microphysics and below-cloud processes, we recommend caution regarding how Rayleigh distillation models are used during data interpretation. While the isotope compositions during convective precipitation events may be more adequately represented by idealized Rayleigh models, additional factors should be taken into account when interpreting a surface precipitation isotope signal from stratiform clouds.

How to cite: Yongbiao, W., Johannessen, A., and Sodemann, H.: High-resolution stable isotope signature of a land-falling Atmospheric River in southern Norway, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-9124,, 2021.


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