Interpolating the isotopic composition of modern meteoric precipitation

Gabriel J. Bowen, Justin Revenaugh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

867 Scopus citations


An accurate representation of the spatial distribution of stable hydrogen and oxygen isotopes in modern precipitation is required for many hydrological, paleoclimate, and ecological applications. No standardized method for achieving such a representation exists, and potential errors associated with previously employed methods are not understood. Using resampling, we test the accuracy of interpolated δD and δ18O estimates made using four methods. Prediction error for all methods is strongly related to number of data and will likely decline with the addition of new data. The best method lowers estimation error by 10-15% relative to others tested and gives an average error, using all available data, ≈2.5% of the global range. We present and interpret global maps of interpolated δD, δ18O, and deuterium excess in precipitation and the 95% confidence intervals for these values created using the optimal method. These depict global and regional patterns, make evident the robustness of interpolated isotopic patterns, and highlight target areas for future precipitation sampling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)SWC91-SWC913
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2003


  • Deuterium
  • Hydrogen
  • Maps
  • Meteoric water
  • Oxygen
  • Stable isotopes


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