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What controls precipitation delta O-18 in the southern Tibetan Plateau at seasonal and intra-seasonal scales? A case study at Lhasa and Nyalam

Abstract : Understanding the spatial and temporal controls of precipitation delta O-18 in the southern Tibetan Plateau of central Asia is necessary for paleoclimate reconstructions from the wealth of regional archives (ice cores, lake sediments, tree ring cellulose, and speleothems). While classical interpretations of such records were conducted in terms of local precipitation, simulations conducted with atmospheric general circulation models enabled with water stable isotopes have suggested that past changes in south Asia precipitation delta O-18 may be driven by remote processes linked to moisture transport. Studies conducted at the event scale can provide constraints to assess the drivers of precipitation delta O-18 and the validity of simulated mechanisms. Here, we take advantage of new event precipitation delta O-18 monitored from January 2005 to December 2007 at two southern Tibetan Plateau stations (Lhasa and Nyalam). The drivers of daily to seasonal variations are investigated using statistical relationships with local and regional temperature, precipitation amount and convective activity based on in situ data and satellite products. The strongest control on precipitation delta O-18 at Lhasa during the monsoon season at event and seasonal scales is provided by the integrated regional convective activity upstream air mass trajectories, cumulated over several days. In contrast, the integrated convection appears to be the main driver of precipitation delta O-18 at Nyalam only in July and August, and the situation is more complex in other months. Local climate variables can only account for a small fraction of the observed delta O-18 variance, with significant differences between both stations. This study offers a better constraint on climate archives interpretation in the southern Tibetan Plateau. The daily data presented here also provides a benchmark to evaluate the capacity of isotopically enabled atmospheric general circulation models (iGCMs) to simulate the response of precipitation delta O-18 to convection. This is illustrated using a nudged and zoomed simulation with the LMDZiso model. While it successfully simulates some seasonal and daily characteristics of precipitation delta O-18 in the southern Tibetan Plateau, it fails to simulate the correlation between delta O-18 and upstream precipitation. This calls for caution when using atmospheric models to interpret precipitation delta O-18 archives in terms of past monsoon variability.
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Jing Gao, Valérie Masson-Delmotte, Camille Risi, You He, Tandong Yao. What controls precipitation delta O-18 in the southern Tibetan Plateau at seasonal and intra-seasonal scales? A case study at Lhasa and Nyalam. Tellus B - Chemical and Physical Meteorology, Taylor & Francis, 2013, 65 (1), pp.21043. ⟨10.3402/tellusb.v65i0.21043⟩. ⟨hal-01108537⟩

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