Rainfall Stable Water Isotope Variability in Coastal Southwestern Western Australia and Its Relationship to Climate on Multiple Timescales

Publication Name

Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres


The factors driving variability in rainfall stable water isotopes (specifically δ18O and deuterium excess, d = δ2H − 8 δ18O) were studied in a 13-year data set of daily rainfall samples from coastal southwestern Western Australia (SWWA). Backwards dispersion modeling, automatic synoptic type classification, and a statistical model were used to establish causes of variability on a daily scale; and predictions from the model were aggregated to longer temporal scales to discover the cause of variability on multiple timescales. Factors differ between δ18O and d and differ according to temporal scale. Rainfall intensity, both at the observation site and upwind, was most important for determining δ18O and this relationship was robust across all time scales (daily, seasonal, and interannual) as well as generalizing to a second observation site. The sensitivity of δ18O to rainfall intensity makes annual mean values particularly sensitive to the year's largest events. Projecting the rainfall intensity relationship back through ∼100 years of precipitation observations can explain ∼ (Formula presented.) –0.4‰ shifts in rainfall δ18O. Twentieth century speleothem records from the region exhibit signals of a similar magnitude, indicating that rainfall intensity should be taken into account during the interpretation of regional climate archives. For d, humidity during evaporation from the ocean was the most important driver of variability at the daily scale, as well as explaining the seasonal cycle, but source humidity failed to explain the longer-term interannual variability.

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Funding Sponsor

Australian Research Council



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