University of Oulu

Ala-aho, P.; Welker, J.M.; Bailey, H.; Højlund Pedersen, S.; Kopec, B.; Klein, E.; Mellat, M.; Mustonen, K.-R.; Noor, K.; Marttila, H. Arctic Snow Isotope Hydrology: A Comparative Snow-Water Vapor Study. Atmosphere 2021, 12, 150.

Arctic snow isotope hydrology : a comparative snow-water vapor study

Saved in:
Author: Ala-aho, Pertti1; Welker, Jeffrey M.2,3,4; Bailey, Hannah2;
Organizations: 1Water, Energy and Environmental Engineering Research Unit, University of Oulu, 90570 Oulu, Finland
2Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, 90570 Oulu, Finland
3Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, AK 99508, USA
4University of the Arctic, UArctic, 96930 Rovaniemi, Finland
5Cooperative Institute for Research in the Atmosphere, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
6Department of Geological Sciences, University of Alaska Anchorage, Anchorage, AK 99508, USA
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 53.3 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-04-22


The Arctic’s winter water cycle is rapidly changing, with implications for snow moisture sources and transport processes. Stable isotope values (δ¹⁸O, δ²H, d-excess) of the Arctic snowpack have potential to provide proxy records of these processes, yet it is unclear how well the isotope values of individual snowfall events are preserved within snow profiles. Here, we present water isotope data from multiple taiga and tundra snow profiles sampled in Arctic Alaska and Finland, respectively, during winter 2018–2019. We compare the snowpack isotope stratigraphy with meteoric water isotopes (vapor and precipitation) during snowfall days, and combine our measurements with satellite observations and reanalysis data. Our analyses indicate that synoptic-scale atmospheric circulation and regional sea ice coverage are key drivers of the source, amount, and isotopic composition of Arctic snowpacks. We find that the western Arctic tundra snowpack profiles in Alaska preserved the isotope values for the most recent storm; however, post depositional processes modified the remaining isotope profiles. The overall seasonal evolution in the vapor isotope values were better preserved in taiga snow isotope profiles in the eastern Arctic, where there is significantly less wind-driven redistribution than in the open Alaskan tundra. We demonstrate the potential of the seasonal snowpack to provide a useful proxy for Arctic winter-time moisture sources and propose future analyses.

see all

Series: Atmosphere
ISSN: 2073-4433
ISSN-E: 2073-4433
ISSN-L: 2073-4433
Volume: 12
Issue: 2
Article number: 150
DOI: 10.3390/atmos12020150
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1172 Environmental sciences
Funding: This study was supported by an Academy of Finland grants 316349 and 316014 awarded to P. Ala-aho and J.M. Welker, respectively. In addition, support was provided by the NSF Arctic System Science project (1604249) and the University of the Arctic (UArctic) Research Chairship awarded to J.M.W.
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 316349
Detailed Information: 316349 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
316014 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (