Seasonal observations of stable isotope variations in a valley catchment, Signy Island, South Orkney Islands
The oxygen and hydrogen isotope composition of waters in a small valley at Signy Island, South Orkney Islands, were monitored over three summers (1999 to 2001). These stable isotopes track water movement through the catchment, especially seasonal precipitation and snow melt. All samples fall close to the regional meteoric water line but factors other than air temperature cause year-to-year variability. Residence times are in the order of days thus the lake water provides an average of precipitation falling only a few days before, except in the winter when the lakes are effectively closed. Freezing of surface waters preserves the isotope signature of the underlying waters from the previous summer. In spring, meltwaters from winter snow are isotopically depleted having delta(18)O and deltaD as low as -13parts per thousand and -100parts per thousand (VSMOW). Ice-cover break-up in late December allows complete water column mixing. By February, the lakes are relatively enriched isotopically (delta(18)O-9parts per thousand) by summer precipitation. Precipitation isotopic composition at Halley Station, Brunt Ice Shelf, is similar, illustrating the broad-scale effects of the Weddell Sea cyclonic atmospheric circulation. These data form a useful reference data-set for the ground-based validation of atmospheric models and palaeoclimate reconstructions in this isolated sector of the South Atlantic Ocean.