Chinese Science Bulletin

, Volume 52, Issue 21, pp 2963–2972 | Cite as

Water isotope variations in the snow pack and summer precipitation at July 1 Glacier, Qilian Mountains in northwest China

  • Zhou ShiQiao Email author
  • Nakawo Masayoshi 
  • Sakai Akiko 
  • Matsuda Yoshihiro 
  • Duan KeQin 
  • Pu JianChen 
Articles Geography


This paper presents the stable isotope data of the snow pack and summer precipitation collected at the July 1 Glacier, Qilian Mountains in northwest China and analyses their relationships with meteorological factors. On an event scale, there is no temperature effect on the δ 18O values in the summer precipitation, whereas the amount effect is shown to be clear. By tracing the moisture transport history and comparing the precipitation with its isotopic composition, it is shown that this amount effect not only reflects the change in moisture trajectory, which is related to the monsoon activities, but is also associated with the cooling degree of vapor in the cloud, the evaporation of falling raindrops and the isotopic exchange between the falling drops and the atmospheric vapor. As very little precipitation occurs in winter, the snow pack profile mainly represents the precipitation in the other three seasons. There are low precipitation δ 18O ratios in summer and high ratios in spring and autumn. The Meteoric Water Line (MLW) for the summer precipitation is δD = 7.6 δ 18O + 13.3, which is similar to that at Delingha, located in the south rim of the Qilian Mountains. The MWL for the snow pack is δD = 10.4 δ 18O + 41.4, showing a large slope and intercept. The deuterium excess (d) of the snow pack is positively correlated with δ 18O, indicating that both d and δ 18O decrease from spring to summer and increase from early autumn to early spring. This then results in the high slope and intercept of the MWL. Seasonal fluctuations of d in the snow pack indicate the change of moisture source and trajectory. During spring and autumn, the moisture originates from continental recycling or rapid evaporation over relatively warm water bodies like Black, Caspian and Aral Seas when the dry westerly air masses pass over them, hence very high d values in precipitation are formed. During summer, the monsoon is responsible for the low d values. This indicates that the monsoon can reach the western part of the Qilian Mountains.


Tibetan Plateau Qilian Mountains July 1 Glacier precipitation snow firn stable isotopes meteoric water line deuterium excess 


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Copyright information

© Science in China Press 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhou ShiQiao 
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Nakawo Masayoshi 
    • 3
  • Sakai Akiko 
    • 4
  • Matsuda Yoshihiro 
    • 4
  • Duan KeQin 
    • 5
  • Pu JianChen 
    • 5
  1. 1.Institute of Tibetan Plateau ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Institute of Plateau MeteorologyChina Meteorological AdministrationChengduChina
  3. 3.Research Institute for Humanity and NatureKyotoJapan
  4. 4.Graduate School of Environmental StudiesNagoya UniversityNagoyaJapan
  5. 5.Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina

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