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Keywords:

  • Tibetan Plateau;
  • oxygen isotope;
  • precipitation;
  • ice core

[1] A detailed study of the climatic significance of δ18O in precipitation was completed on a 1500 km southwest-northeast transect of the Tibetan Plateau in central Asia. Precipitation samples were collected at four meteorological stations for up to 9 years. This study shows that the gradual impact of monsoon precipitation affects the spatial variation of δ18O-T relationship along the transect. Strong monsoon activity in the southern Tibetan Plateau results in high precipitation rates and more depleted heavy isotopes. This depletion mechanism is described as a precipitation “amount effect” and results in a poor δ18O-T relationship at both seasonal and annual scales. In the middle of the Tibetan Plateau, the effects of the monsoon are diminished but continue to cause a reduced correlation of δ18O and temperature at the annual scale. At the monthly scale, however, a significant δ18O-T relationship does exist. To the north of the Tibetan Plateau beyond the extent of the effects of monsoon precipitation, δ18O in precipitation shows a strong temperature dependence. δ18O records from two shallow ice cores and historic air temperature data were compared to verify the modern δ18O-T relationship. δ18O in Dunde ice core was positively correlated with air temperature from a nearby meteorological station in the north of the plateau. The δ18O variation in an ice core from the southern Plateau, however, was inversely correlated with precipitation amount at a nearby meteorological station and also the accumulation record in the ice core. The long-term variation of δ18O in the ice core record in the monsoon regions of the southern Tibetan Plateau suggest past monsoon seasons were probably more expansive. It is still unclear, however, how changes in large-scale atmosphere circulation might influence summer monsoon precipitation on the Tibetan Plateau.