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Dynamic processes governing the isotopic composition of water vapor as observed from space and ground

Christian Frankenberg(1), Kei Yoshimura(2), Thorsten Warneke(3), Ilse Aben(1), André Butz(1), Nicholas Deutscher(4), David Griffith(4), Frank Hase(5), Justus Notholt(3), Matthias Schneider(5), Hans Schrijver(1) and Thomas Röckmann(6)

(1) SRON - Netherlands Institute for Space Research, Sorbonnelaan 2, 3584CA Utrecht, Netherlands
(2) Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, La Jolla, California, United States
(3) Institute of Environmental Physics, Otto-Hahn-Allee 1, Bremen, Germany
(4) School of Chemistry, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia
(5) Institute for Meteorology and Climate Research, IMK-ASF Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany
(6) Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Princetonplein 5, 3584CC Utrecht, Netherlands


The hydrological cycle and its response to, e.g. temperature changes, is of prime importance for climate reconstruction and prediction. The potential of retrieving water vapour isotopologues from the SCIAMACHY instrument onboard ENVISAT has so far been overlooked. We retrieve global HDO/H2O abundances using absorption spectroscopy, providing an entirely new perspective on the near-surface distribution of water vapor isotopologues. Apart from global features such as the latitudinal gradient, we observe local patterns in isotopologues such as evaporation signals over the Red Sea or highly depleted values over mountain ranges. We observe an unexpectedly high seasonality in the inner Sahel region, pointing to a strongly depleted subsiding branch of the Hadley circulation. Retrieval results are compared with an isotope-enabled general circulation model and focus is put on seasonal variations. An extension of the analysis at high latitudes using ground-based observations shows that dynamic processes can entirely compensate temperature effects on the isotopic composition of precipitation.