EGU23-10181, updated on 10 Jan 2024
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Isotopic composition as a tracer of different source contributions to stream flow in the glacierized catchments of Central Asia

Zarina Saidaliyeva1, Maria Shahgedanova1, Vadim Yapiyev1, Andrew Wade1, Fakhriddin Akbarov2, Mukhammed Esenaman3, Vassiliy Kapitsa4, Nikolay Kassatkin4, Diliorom Kayumova5, Ilkhomiddin Rakhimov6, Rysbek Satylkanov7, Daniyar Sayakbaev7, Igor Severskiy4, Maksim Petrov2, Ryskul Usubaliev3, and Gulomjon Umirzakov8
Zarina Saidaliyeva et al.
  • 1The University of Reading, Department of Geography and Environmental Science, Reading, United Kingdom of Great Britain – England, Scotland, Wales (
  • 2Institute of geology and geophysics named after Kh.M.Abdullayev, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
  • 3Central-Asian Institute for Applied Geosciences, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
  • 4Central Asian Regional Glaciological Center as a category II under the auspices of UNESCO, Almaty, Kazakhstan
  • 5Centre for Glacier Research of the Academy of Science of the Republic of Tajikistan, Dushanbe, Tajikistan
  • 6Institute of Water Problems, Hydropower and Environment, Dushanbe, Tajikistan
  • 7Tien-Shan High Mountain Scientific Centre, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
  • 8National University of Uzbekistan, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

The mountains of Central Asia are water towers servicing the arid downstream regions and maintaining irrigation and food production. There are several sources of runoff: liquid precipitation, snowpack, glacier ice, ground ice (including rock glaciers and permafrost), and ground water. The relative contributions of different water sources to stream flow are poorly quantified and its improved understanding will reduce uncertainty in hydrological modelling and projections of changes in water resources. In 2019-21, an extensive sampling programme was conducted to quantify the relative contributions of water sources to stream flow in the Tien Shan and Pamir-Alai using stable water isotope tracers (SWI) of oxygen and hydrogen. Samples of the event-based precipitation, river discharge taken daily or twice-daily at the designated sampling points and every fortnight along the river courses, and water sources were collected in the glacierized catchments in Kazakhstan (Ulken Almaty and Kishi Almaty catchments), Kyrgyzstan (Ala-Archa and Chon-Kyzyl Suu), Tajikistan (Varzob and Kafornihon), and Uzbekistan (Chirchik). The samples were processed using Picarro isotope analyser. A data set of SWI ratios from approximately 6000 samples has been produced and analysed. It is the first comprehensive SWI database in Central Asia contributing to understanding of regional and global isoscapes and water resources. The local meteoric water line (LMWL) was developed from the event-based precipitation samples. It is approximated as δD = 7.6δ18O + 8.7. The values of SWI in precipitation exhibit a clear annual cycle and depend on precipitation type (rain, snow, and mixed). The derived seasonal SWI values are different from those available from the Water Isotopes Database being nearly twice as high in winter. Snow, glacier ice and permafrost exhibit distinct isotopic signatures although these vary between the basins. Glacier ice in the Chirchik basin appears to be more depleted than elsewhere. Rock glaciers were sampled in the Ulken Almaty basin showing SWI ratios similar to those of glacier ice but both are distinct from permafrost. These results point at the feasibility of the application of the mixing model and end-member mixing analysis approaches to the partitioning of runoff and quantifying relative contributions of different water sources in the Tien Shan and Pamir-Alai. This is a policy-relevant task under the conditions of climate change.

How to cite: Saidaliyeva, Z., Shahgedanova, M., Yapiyev, V., Wade, A., Akbarov, F., Esenaman, M., Kapitsa, V., Kassatkin, N., Kayumova, D., Rakhimov, I., Satylkanov, R., Sayakbaev, D., Severskiy, I., Petrov, M., Usubaliev, R., and Umirzakov, G.: Isotopic composition as a tracer of different source contributions to stream flow in the glacierized catchments of Central Asia, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-10181,, 2023.