Relation Between Long-Term Trends of Oxygen-18 Isotope Composition of Precipitation and Climate

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Science  06 Nov 1992:
Vol. 258, Issue 5084, pp. 981-985
DOI: 10.1126/science.258.5084.981


Stable isotope ratios of oxygen (18O/16O) and hydrogen (D/H) in water have long been considered powerful indicators of paleoclimate. However, quantitative interpretation of isotope variations in terms of climate changes is hampered by a limited understanding of physical processes controlling the global isotope behavior. Analysis was conducted of time series of 18O content (δ 18O) of monthly precipitation and surface air temperature available through the International Atomic Energy Agency-World Meteorological Organization global network, "Isotopes in Precipitation." This study indicates that long-term changes of isotopic composition of precipitation over mid-and high-latitude regions during the past three decades closely followed long-term changes of surface air temperature with the average 8180-temperature coefficient around 0.6 per mil per degree Celsius.