Articles | Volume 5, issue 8
Research article
27 Aug 2012
Research article |  | 27 Aug 2012

Evaluation of continuous water vapor δD and δ18O measurements by off-axis integrated cavity output spectroscopy

N. Kurita, B. D. Newman, L. J. Araguas-Araguas, and P. Aggarwal

Abstract. Recent commercially available laser spectroscopy systems enabled us to continuously and reliably measure the δD and δ18O of atmospheric water vapor. The use of this new technology is becoming popular because of its advantages over the conventional approach based on cold trap collection. These advantages include much higher temporal resolution/continuous monitoring and the ability to make direct measurements of both isotopes in the field. Here, we evaluate the accuracy and precision of the laser based water vapor isotope instrument through a comparison of measurements with those found using the conventional cold trap method. A commercially available water vapor isotope analyzer (WVIA) with the vaporization system of a liquid water standard (Water Vapor Isotope Standard Source, WVISS) from Los Gatos Research (LGR) Inc. was used for this study. We found that the WVIA instrument can provide accurate results if (1) correction is applied for time-dependent isotope drift, (2) normalization to the VSMOW/SLAP scale is implemented, and (3) the water vapor concentration dependence of the isotopic ratio is also corrected. In addition, since the isotopic value of water vapor generated by the WVISS is also dependent on the concentration of water vapor, this effect must be considered to determine the true water vapor concentration effect on the resulting isotope measurement.

To test our calibration procedure, continuous water vapor isotope measurements using both a laser instrument and a cold trap system were carried out at the IAEA Isotope Hydrology Laboratory in Vienna from August to December 2011. The calibrated isotopic values measured using the WVIA agree well with those obtained via the cold trap method. The standard deviation of the isotopic difference between both methods is about 1.4‰ for δD and 0.28‰ for δ18O. This precision allowed us to obtain reliable values for d-excess. The day-to-day variation of d-excess measured by WVIA also agrees well with that found using the cold trap method. These results demonstrate that a coupled system, using commercially available WVIA and WVISS instruments can provide continuous and accurate isotope data, with results achieved similar to those obtained using the conventional method, but with drastically improved temporal resolution.