3 years ago

Water isotopes and hydrograph separation in different glacial catchments in the southeast margin of the Tibetan Plateau

Tao Pu, Shichang Kang, Shijin Wang, Yuanqing He, Dahe Qin, HeWen Niu
Snow and glaciers are known to be important sources for freshwater; nevertheless, our understanding of the hydrological functioning of glacial catchments remains limited when compared with lower altitude catchments. In this study, a temperate glacial region located in the southeast margin of the Tibetan Plateau is selected to analyse the characteristics of δ18O and δD in different water sources and the contribution of glacier–snow meltwater to streamflow. The results indicate that the δ18O of river water ranges from −16.2‰ to −10.2‰ with a mean of −14.1‰ and that the δD values range from −117.0‰ to −68.0‰ with a mean of −103.1‰. These values are more negative than those of glacier–snow meltwater but less negative than those of precipitation. The d-excess values are found to decrease from meltwater to river to lake/reservoir water as a result of evaporation. On the basis of hydrograph separation, glacier–snow meltwater accounts for 51.5% of river water in the Baishui catchment in the melting season. In the Yanggong catchment, snow meltwater contributes 47.9% to river water in the premonsoon period, and glacier meltwater contributes only 6.8% in the monsoon period. The uncertainty in hydrograph separation is sensitive to the variation of tracer concentrations of streamflow components. The input of meltwater to a water system varies with local climate and glacier changes. The results confirm that hydrograph separation using water isotopes is valuable for evaluating the recharge sources of rivers, especially in ungauged glacial regions. This study provides insights into the hydrological processes of glacial catchments on the Tibetan Plateau, which is important for water resource management.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1002/hyp.11293

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