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The Isotopic Composition of Rainfall on a Subtropical Mountainous Island

Giuseppe TorriaDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI, 96822

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Alison D. NugentaDepartment of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI, 96822

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Brian N. PoppbDepartment of Earth Sciences, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI, 96822

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Abstract

Tropical islands are simultaneously some of the most biodiverse and vulnerable places on Earth. Water resources help maintain the delicate balance on which the ecosystems and the population of tropical islands rely. Hydrogen and oxygen isotope analyses are a powerful tool in the study of the water cycle on tropical islands, although the scarcity of long-term and high-frequency data makes interpretation challenging. Here, a new dataset is presented based on weekly collection of rainfall H and O isotopic composition on the island of O‘ahu, Hawai‘i, beginning from July 2019 and still ongoing. The data show considerable differences in isotopic ratios produced by different weather systems, with Kona lows and upper-level lows having the lowest δ2H and δ18O values, and trade-wind showers the highest. The data also show significant spatial variability, with some sites being characterized by higher isotope ratios than others. The amount effect is not observed consistently at all sites. Deuterium excess shows a marked seasonal cycle, which is attributed to the different origin and history of the air masses that are responsible for rainfall in the winter and summer months. The local meteoric water line and a comparison of this dataset with a long-term historical record illustrate strong interannual variability and the need to establish a long-term precipitation isotope monitoring network for Hawai‘i.

Corresponding author: Giuseppe Torri, gtorri@hawaii.edu

Abstract

Tropical islands are simultaneously some of the most biodiverse and vulnerable places on Earth. Water resources help maintain the delicate balance on which the ecosystems and the population of tropical islands rely. Hydrogen and oxygen isotope analyses are a powerful tool in the study of the water cycle on tropical islands, although the scarcity of long-term and high-frequency data makes interpretation challenging. Here, a new dataset is presented based on weekly collection of rainfall H and O isotopic composition on the island of O‘ahu, Hawai‘i, beginning from July 2019 and still ongoing. The data show considerable differences in isotopic ratios produced by different weather systems, with Kona lows and upper-level lows having the lowest δ2H and δ18O values, and trade-wind showers the highest. The data also show significant spatial variability, with some sites being characterized by higher isotope ratios than others. The amount effect is not observed consistently at all sites. Deuterium excess shows a marked seasonal cycle, which is attributed to the different origin and history of the air masses that are responsible for rainfall in the winter and summer months. The local meteoric water line and a comparison of this dataset with a long-term historical record illustrate strong interannual variability and the need to establish a long-term precipitation isotope monitoring network for Hawai‘i.

Corresponding author: Giuseppe Torri, gtorri@hawaii.edu
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