Reliability and quality of water isotope data collected with a low-budget rain collector

Authors

  • Ulrich E. Prechsl,

    Corresponding author
    1. ETH Zurich, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Zurich, Switzerland
    Current affiliation:
    1. Agroscope, Institute for Sustainability Sciences, Zurich, Switzerland
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  • Anna K. Gilgen,

    1. ETH Zurich, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Zurich, Switzerland
    2. University of Bern, Institute of Plant Sciences and Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, Bern, Switzerland
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  • Ansgar Kahmen,

    1. ETH Zurich, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Zurich, Switzerland
    2. University of Basel, Department of Environmental Sciences – Botany, Basel, Switzerland
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  • Nina Buchmann

    1. ETH Zurich, Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Zurich, Switzerland
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Abstract

RATIONALE

Low-budget rain collectors for water isotope analysis, such as the 'ball-in-funnel type collector' (BiFC), are widely used in studies on stable water isotopes of rain. To date, however, an experimental quality assessment of such devices in relation to climatic factors does not exist.

METHODS

We used Cavity Ring-Down Spectrometry (CRDS) to quantify the effects of evaporation on the δ18O values of reference water under controlled conditions as a function of the elapsed time between rainfall and collection for isotope analysis, the sample volume and the relative humidity (RH: 31% and 67%; 25°C). The climate chamber conditions were chosen to reflect the warm and dry end of field conditions that favor evaporative enrichment (EE). We also tested the performance of the BiFC in the field, and compared our δ2H/δ18O data obtained by isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) with those from the Swiss National Network for the Observation of Isotopes in the Water Cycle (ISOT).

RESULTS

The EE increased with time, with a 1‰ increase in the δ18O values after 10 days (RH: 25%; 25°C; 35 mL (corresponding to a 5 mm rain event); p <0.001). The sample volume strongly affected the EE (max. value +1.5‰ for 7 mL samples (i.e., 1 mm rain events) after 72 h at 31% and 67% RH; p <0.001), whereas the relative humidity had no significant effect. Using the BiFC in the field, we obtained very tight relationships of the δ2H/δ18O values (r2 ≥0.95) for three sites along an elevational gradient, not significantly different from that of the next ISOT station.

CONCLUSIONS

Since the chosen experimental conditions were extreme compared with the field conditions, it was concluded that the BiFC is a highly reliable and inexpensive collector of rainwater for isotope analysis. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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