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Open AccessArticle

The Impact of Mountain Range Geographic Orientation on the Altitude Effect of Precipitation δ18O in the Upper Reaches of the Heihe River Basin in the Qilian Mountains

State Key Laboratory of Cryospheric Science, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China
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Water 2018, 10(12), 1797; https://doi.org/10.3390/w10121797
Received: 12 November 2018 / Revised: 30 November 2018 / Accepted: 5 December 2018 / Published: 7 December 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Hydrology)
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Abstract

The precipitation δ18O-elevation gradients are important for paleoclimate, hydrology, and paleoelevation studies. The field setting for this research was the upper reaches of the Heihe River Basin within the Qilian Mountains in the Northern Tibetan Plateau. Three study sites were established along the Heihe main river. These sites were the Yingluoxia and Qilian hydrological stations and the Yeniugou meteorological station. The Yingluoxia hydrological station was the dividing point between the upper and middle reaches of the Heihe River Basin. The altitudes of these sites range from 1600 m to 3300 m. Summer precipitation is predominant with regard to the annual precipitation amount. By analysis of variance (ANOVA), the precipitation δ18O data collected from the three sites were analyzed, spanning a year of precipitation data from 2007.10 to 2008.9. The results showed that the δ18O-elevation gradient was not significant (α = 0.05) at a seasonal or annual scale in this region and the precipitation-weighted annual mean δ18O was −7.1‰. Mechanisms that have been proposed to explain this result consider the role of two processes, including (1) mixing of moisture sources, a process common in an arid and semiarid region, and (2) the absence of a mechanism for water vapor to climb along slopes in the precipitation system. Atmospheric water vapor mainly travels along the trend of the Qilian Mountains range rather than climbing it because this region is dominated by the westerlies and the trend of the Qilian mountains is geographically aligned to the NWW (north-west-west) direction. We demonstrated that, aside from the water vapor source, the spatial relationship between the water vapor transport pathway and the trend of the mountain range are the main driving factors associated with the stable isotope trends in precipitation. As a result, it is important to re-recognize the timing and location of groundwater recharge in the Heihe River Basin. View Full-Text
Keywords: precipitation; δ18O; altitude effect; ANOVA; trend of the Qilian mountains precipitation; δ18O; altitude effect; ANOVA; trend of the Qilian mountains
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He, J.; Zhang, W.; Wu, Y. The Impact of Mountain Range Geographic Orientation on the Altitude Effect of Precipitation δ18O in the Upper Reaches of the Heihe River Basin in the Qilian Mountains. Water 2018, 10, 1797.

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