Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, volume 21, pp. 533-548, (2017)
The stable isotopic composition of water vapour provides information about moisture sources and processes difficult to obtain with traditional measurement techniques. Recently, it has been proposed that the D-excess of water vapour (d =δH-8× δO) can provide a diagnostic tracer of continental moisture recycling. However, D-excess exhibits a diurnal cycle that has been observed across a variety of ecosystems and may be influenced by a range of processes beyond regional-scale moisture recycling, including local evaporation (ET) fluxes. There is a lack of measurements of D-excess in evaporation (ET) fluxes, which has made it difficult to assess how ET fluxes modify the Dexcess in water vapour (d). With this in mind, we employed a chamber-based approach to directly measure D-excess in ET (d) fluxes. We show that ET fluxes imposed a negative forcing on the ambient vapour and could not explain the higher daytime d values. The low d observed here was sourced from a soil water pool that had undergone an extended drying period, leading to low D-excess in the soil moisture pool. A strong correlation between daytime d and locally measured relative humidity was consistent with an oceanic moisture source, suggesting that remote hydrological processes were the major contributor to daytime d variability. During the early evening, ET fluxes into a shallow nocturnal inversion layer caused a lowering of d values near the surface. In addition, transient mixing of vapour with a higher D-excess from above the nocturnal inversion modified these values, causing large variability during the night. These results indicate d can generally be expected to show large spatial and temporal variability and to depend on the soil moisture state. For long periods between rain events, common in semi-arid environments, ET would be expected to impose negative forcing on the surface d. Spatial and temporal variability of D-excess in ET fluxes therefore needs to be considered when using d to study moisture recycling and during extended dry periods with weak moisture recycling may act as a tracer of the relative humidity at the oceanic moisture source.