Articles | Volume 11, issue 2
Research article
25 Feb 2015
Research article |  | 25 Feb 2015

East Asian Monsoon controls on the inter-annual variability in precipitation isotope ratio in Japan

N. Kurita, Y. Fujiyoshi, T. Nakayama, Y. Matsumi, and H. Kitagawa

Abstract. To elucidate the mechanism for how the East Asian Monsoon (EAM) variability have influenced the isotope proxy records in Japan, we explore the primary driver of variations of precipitation isotopes at multiple temporal scales (event, seasonal and inter-annual scales). Using a new 1-year record of the isotopic composition of event-based precipitation and continuous near-surface water vapor at Nagoya in central Japan, we identify the key atmospheric processes controlling the storm-to-storm isotopic variations through an analysis of air mass sources and rainout history during the transport of moisture to the site, and then apply the identified processes to explain the inter-annual isotopic variability related to the EAM variability in the historical 17-year long Tokyo station record in the Global Network of Isotopes in Precipitation (GNIP).

In the summer, southerly flows transport moisture with higher isotopic values from subtropical marine regions and bring warm rainfall enriched with heavy isotopes. The weak monsoon summer corresponds to enriched isotopic values in precipitation, reflecting higher contribution of warm rainfall to the total summer precipitation. In the strong monsoon summer, the sustaining Baiu rainband along the southern coast of Japan prevents moisture transport across Japan, so that the contribution of warm rainfall is reduced. In the winter, storm tracks are the dominant driver of storm-to-storm isotopic variation and relatively low isotopic values occur when a cold frontal rainband associated with extratropical cyclones passes off to the south of the Japan coast. The weak monsoon winter is characterized by lower isotopes in precipitation, due to the distribution of the cyclone tracks away from the southern coast of Japan. In contrast, the northward shift of the cyclone tracks and stronger development of cyclones during the strong monsoon winters decrease the contribution of cold frontal precipitation, resulting in higher isotopic values in winter precipitation. Therefore, year-to-year isotopic variability in summer and winter Japanese precipitation correlates significantly with changes in the East Asian summer and winter monsoon intensity (R=-0.47 for summer, R=0.42 for winter), and thus we conclude that the isotope proxy records in Japan should reflect past changes in the East Asian Monsoon. Since our study identifies the climate drivers controlling isotopic variations in summer and winter precipitation, we highlight the retrieval of a record with seasonal resolution from paleoarchives as an important priority.

Short summary
This study demonstrates that the intensity of the East Asian summer and winter monsoon is the primary driver of variations of summer and winter precipitation isotopes in central Japan. Japan lies in the northeast limits of the East Asian monsoon region. Understanding the past monsoon changes in Japan is important for determining whether the isotopic variability recorded in Chinese stalagmite reflects the East Asian summer monsoon intensity or rainfall variability in the Indian summer monsoon.