Seasonality of stable isotope composition of atmospheric water input at the southern slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Hydrological Processes
By: , and 



To understand the moisture regime at the southern slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, we analysed the isotopic variability of oxygen (δ18O) and hydrogen (δD) of rainfall, throughfall, and fog from a total of 2,140 samples collected weekly over 2 years at 9 study sites along an elevation transect ranging from 950 to 3,880 m above sea level. Precipitation in the Kilimanjaro tropical rainforests consists of a combination of rainfall, throughfall, and fog. We defined local meteoric water lines for all 3 precipitation types individually and the overall precipitation, δDprec = 7.45 (±0.05) × δ18Oprec + 13.61 (±0.20), n = 2,140, R2 = .91, p < .001. We investigated the precipitation-type-specific stable isotope composition and analysed the effects of amount, altitude, and temperature. Aggregated annual mean values revealed isotope composition of rainfall as most depleted and fog water as most enriched in heavy isotopes at the highest elevation research site. We found an altitude effect of δ18Orain = −0.11‰ × 100 m−1, which varied according to precipitation type and season. The relatively weak isotope or altitude gradient may reveal 2 different moisture sources in the research area: (a) local moisture recycling and (b) regional moisture sources. Generally, the seasonality of δ18Orain values follows the bimodal rainfall distribution under the influences of south- and north-easterly trade winds. These seasonal patterns of isotopic composition were linked to different regional moisture sources by analysing Hybrid Single Particle Lagrangian Integrated Trajectory backward trajectories. Seasonality of dexcess values revealed evidence of enhanced moisture recycling after the onset of the rainy seasons. This comprehensive dataset is essential for further research using stable isotopes as a hydrological tracer of sources of precipitation that contribute to water resources of the Kilimanjaro region.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Seasonality of stable isotope composition of atmospheric water input at the southern slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Series title Hydrological Processes
DOI 10.1002/hyp.11311
Volume 31
Issue 22
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) National Research Program - Eastern Branch
Description 16 p.
First page 3932
Last page 3947
Country Tanzania
Other Geospatial Mt. Kilimanjaro
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