Extracting environmental information from lake water isotopes - a novel approac

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Ben G Kopec1, Xiahong Feng2, Alex M Lauder1, Ross A Virginia2 and Eric S Posmentier1, (1)Dartmouth College, Earth Sciences, Hanover, NH, United States, (2)Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, United States
It is well known that hydrogen (δD) and oxygen (δ18O) isotopic composition in precipitation defines a meteoric water line with a slope close to 8 and an intercept of 10, and that evaporation causes water to deviate from the line, acquiring a d-excess value different from 10. It has also been observed that a group of lakes subject to significant evaporation often define a line, which we refer to as the lake line, with a slope lower than 8. While there has been much discussion about the slope of lake lines and its dependence on relative humidity, little attention has been given to the scatter around these lines. We show that this seemingly random scatter contains systematic environmental information.

Water in over 20 lakes around Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, was collected in the summers of 2009 to 2013, and the δD and δ18O values were determined. Each year’s isotopic data were used to find: 1) the slope of the lake line; 2) the displacement of each lake parallel to the lake line, which we refer to as the “enrichment”; and 3) the distance between a given lake and the lake line, which we call the “deviance”. The enrichment and deviance are the values of the principal components, PC1 and PC2, respectively, of the set of δD and δ18O coordinates. When comparing the climate and environmental variables, we observed the following. A) The lake line slope varies from 4.12 to 4.63 among the 5 years. B) The enrichment is, in some years, significantly correlated with lake size and longitude (which increases along the moisture and temperature gradient). C) The deviance is significantly correlated with both lake size and longitude every year.

A simple water and isotopic mass balance model suggests that the enrichment is largely controlled by the lake to basin area ratio, while the deviance is controlled predominantly by the humidity and isotopic ratios of air above the lake. The latter variables systematically change from east to west (glacial margin to coast), so longitude is a relevant explanatory variable. In addition, it appears the interannual variations of the lake line slope are controlled by the regional water balance, including precipitation, evaporation and humidity. Interestingly, the lake slope correlates quite well with the NAO index, which, according to our previous work, significantly influences the regional hydrological balance.