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Precipitation isoscapes for New Zealand: enhanced temporal detail using precipitation-weighted daily climatology

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journal contribution
posted on 01.09.2016, 09:20 by W. Troy Baisden, Elizabeth D. Keller, Robert Van Hale, Russell D. Frew, Leonard I. Wassenaar

Predictive understanding of precipitation δ2H and δ18O in New Zealand faces unique challenges, including high spatial variability in precipitation amounts, alternation between subtropical and sub-Antarctic precipitation sources, and a compressed latitudinal range of 34 to 47 °S. To map the precipitation isotope ratios across New Zealand, three years of integrated monthly precipitation samples were acquired from >50 stations. Conventional mean-annual precipitation δ2H and δ18O maps were produced by regressions using geographic and annual climate variables. Incomplete data and short-term variation in climate and precipitation sources limited the utility of this approach. We overcome these difficulties by calculating precipitation-weighted monthly climate parameters using national 5-km-gridded daily climate data. This data plus geographic variables were regressed to predict δ2H, δ18O, and d-excess at all sites. The procedure yields statistically-valid predictions of the isotope composition of precipitation (long-term average root mean square error (RMSE) for δ18O = 0.6 ‰; δ2H = 5.5 ‰); and monthly RMSE δ18O = 1.9 ‰, δ2H = 16 ‰. This approach has substantial benefits for studies that require the isotope composition of precipitation during specific time intervals, and may be further improved by comparison to daily and event-based precipitation samples as well as the use of back-trajectory calculations.