Space and time variation of δ18O and δD in Antarctic precipitation revisited



[1] To better understand the variations over time of precipitation water isotopes measured in polar ice cores, we have developed an intermediate complexity model (ICM) of atmospheric water vapor transport and associated isotopic distillation. The model builds directly from earlier work by D. Fisher and M. Hendricks and is calibrated against the measured modern spatial distribution of δD and deuterium excess (d). Model improvements include a correction to the equation governing advective transport, which solves a major puzzle arising from the earlier work. The new model shows isotopic data to be consistent with dominance of eddy diffusive transport at high latitudes. Model experiments are used to show that a wide variety of climate changes in subtropical source regions can affect Antarctic d and that such d changes are consistently anticorrelated with changes of δD. Magnitudes of ΔδD/Δd are ∼−1 to −5 and are much higher at the ice sheet margin than in the interior of the continent. Changes in the relative dominance of diffusive and advective transport are also shown to cause anticorrelated changes of similar magnitude. Isotopic sensitivities to temperature change (ΔδD/ΔT) are shown to also vary spatially, with low values in marginal zones and higher values inland. Effects of ocean surface relative humidity on Antarctic d are shown to be nearly uniform across the continent (in contrast to earlier results given by Petit et al. [1991]) but quantitatively small. The method used by Vimeux et al. [2001] for folding humidity effects into source temperature effects is supported. We draw attention to a pervasive misapplication of marine composition corrections to Antarctic δD records. Arguments are made in support of simple interpretations of calibrated ice core isotopic time series in terms of temperature changes despite the potential complexities in the system.