Articles | Volume 8, issue 1
Research article
25 Feb 2014
Research article |  | 25 Feb 2014

Influence of regional precipitation patterns on stable isotopes in ice cores from the central Himalayas

H. Pang, S. Hou, S. Kaspari, and P. A. Mayewski

Abstract. Several ice cores have been recovered from the Dasuopu (DSP) Glacier and the East Rongbuk (ER) Glacier in the central Himalayas since the 1990s. Although the distance between the DSP and the ER ice core drilling sites is only ~ 125 km, the stable isotopic record (δ18O or δD) of the DSP core is interpreted in previous studies as a temperature proxy, while the ER core is interpreted as a precipitation proxy. Thus, the climatological significance of the stable isotopic records of these Himalayan ice cores remains a subject of debate. Based on analysis of regional precipitation patterns over the region, we find that remarkable discrepancy in precipitation seasonality between the two sites may account for their disparate isotopic interpretations. At the ER core site, the Indian summer monsoon (ISM) precipitation is dominating due to topographic blocking of the moisture from westerlies by the high ridges of Mt. Qomolangma (Everest), which results in a negative correlation between the ER Δ18O or δD record and precipitation amount along the southern slope of the central Himalayas in response to the "amount effect". At the DSP core site, in comparison with the ISM precipitation, the wintertime precipitation associated with the westerlies is likely more important owing to its local favorable topographic conditions for interacting with the western disturbances. Therefore, the DSP stable isotopic record may be primarily controlled by the westerlies. Our results have important implications for interpreting the stable isotopic ice core records recovered from different climatological regimes of the Himalayas.