Environmental reconstruction      


British Isotope in Rainfall Project


Matt Jones, Jon Tyler(1), Melanie Leng(2), Tim Allott (3)


(1) Department of Earth Sciences , University of Oxford  jont@earth.ox.ac.uk

(2) NERC Isotope Geoscience Laboratory, British Geological Survey mjl@nigl.nerc.ac.uk

(3) Met Office, Exeter

This project aims to investigate the spatial and temporal variability in the oxygen and hydrogen stable isotopes in rainfall across the British Isles.

An introductory video, including our sampling procedures can be found here.

An initial sampling period was conducted in March 2010 with the kind assistance of a group of met. observers from across the country, many of whom are members of COL, the Climatological Observers Link.

March started off cold and dry (as you can see from the data from 2 of our stations below) and we wondered if we were ever going to get any rain! However, the second half on the month was quite wet, and we managed to collect samples from a number of sites across the country.

The data shown here show how the ratio between the stable isotopes of oxygen (18-O and 16-O) changed through the month. There were no clear patterns when looking at the relationship between the met. data and isotope values (written on the charts in the standard delta notation).

However, when we looked at the data across the country there were clear spatial patterns. The maps below show the patterns for the rain events from the 19th to the 21st of March and the 24th to the 26th March inclusive. The values plotted are the average delta-18O values for those time periods, weighted by the amount of rainfall that fell each day.

19th to 21st March 2010

24th to 26th March 2010

The rainfall between the 24th and 26th March was much more negative (having more of the lighter isotope, 16-O) compared to the period 19th to 21st March but in both cases there is a clear trend to more negative values in the north and west.

We don't have enough data yet to draw any significant conclusions from the work, but hope more sampling in the next few years will build a clearer picture of the controls on these isotope values.

Sampling video

This video was recorded before the fist sampling period in March 2010. Some of the details have changed for subsequent sampling periods.

Last updated 16 December, 2013



Met Office

Jon, Matt and rainguage.

Carol analysing water samples in the lab

Mel the director!