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Spatial variability in stable isotopes from Lesotho surface waters: insights into regional moisture transport

Fitchett, JM; Holmes, JA; Dahms-Verster, S; Curtis, CJ; Mackay, AW; (2024) Spatial variability in stable isotopes from Lesotho surface waters: insights into regional moisture transport. Climate Dynamics 10.1007/s00382-023-07073-2. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Precipitation in Lesotho is highly spatially variable, a feature of the high altitude and rugged topography. The hydroclimate dynamics, despite being critical to the water security of Lesotho and adjacent South Africa, are poorly understood. Ratios of oxygen and hydrogen isotopes in meteoric water are excellent tracers of hydroclimatic processes. This study presents the first analysis of stable isotopes from surface waters in Lesotho, and an investigation into the moisture sources. Our results demonstrate considerable variability in isotope values. There are statistically significant relationships between both oxygen and hydrogen isotopes and the altitude of the site and source of rivers sampled, and with hydrogen isotopes and longitude. The meteoric water line for the Lesotho samples is most closely aligned with that of the Global Network of Isotopes in Precipitation (GNIP) station at Harare, in Zimbabwe. The meteoric water line for Windhoek is more closely aligned to the Lesotho samples than the more proximate Cape Town or Pretoria meteoric water lines, which would more closely represent the South African winter- and summer-rainfall zones respectively. HYSPLIT back-trajectory air parcel analysis supports these findings, demonstrating a frequent continental anticyclonic track through southern Zimbabwe. Deuterium excess values vary widely, although are most likely related to processes during moisture transport rather than differences in moisture source. These findings are of particular importance in the context of the future water security of both Lesotho and South Africa, especially as the poleward displacement of the westerly moisture corridor has raised concerns for winter precipitation in the region.

Type: Article
Title: Spatial variability in stable isotopes from Lesotho surface waters: insights into regional moisture transport
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s00382-023-07073-2
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00382-023-07073-2
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Precipitation, Stable isotopes, HYSPLIT, Southern Africa, Surface water
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10187216
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