Stable isotope anatomy of tropical cyclone ita, North-Eastern Australia, April 2014

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Abstract

The isotope signatures registered in speleothems during tropical cyclones (TC) provides information about the frequency and intensity of past TCs but the precise relationship between isotopic composition and the meteorology of TCs remain uncertain. Here we present continuous δ18O and δ2H data in rainfall and water vapour, as well as in discrete rainfall samples, during the passage of TC Ita and relate the evolution in isotopic compositions to local and synoptic scale meteorological observations. High-resolution data revealed a close relationship between isotopic compositions and cyclonic features such as spiral rainbands, periods of stratiform rainfall and the arrival of subtropical and tropical air masses with changing oceanic and continental moisture sources. The isotopic compositions in discrete rainfall samples were remarkably constant along the ~450 km overland path of the cyclone when taking into account the direction and distance to the eye of the cyclone at each sampling time. Near simultaneous variations in δ18O and δ2H values in rainfall and vapour and a near-equilibrium rainfall-vapour isotope fractionation indicates strong isotopic exchange between rainfall and surface inflow of vapour during the approach of the cyclone. In contrast, after the passage of spiral rainbands close to the eye of the cyclone, different moisture sources for rainfall and vapour are reflected in diverging d-excess values. High-resolution isotope studies of modern TCs refine the interpretation of stable isotope signatures found in speleothems and other paleo archives and should aim to further investigate the influence of cyclone intensity and longevity on the isotopic composition of associated rainfall.

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Munksgaard, N. C., Zwart, C., Kurita, N., Bass, A., Nott, J., & Bird, M. I. (2015). Stable isotope anatomy of tropical cyclone ita, North-Eastern Australia, April 2014. PLoS ONE, 10(3). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0119728

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