Evaluation of oceanic and terrestrial sources of moisture for the North American monsoon using numerical models and precipitation stable isotopes

Huancui Hu, Francina Dominguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Scopus citations


This work evaluates the oceanic and terrestrial moisture sources that contribute to North American monsoon (NAM) precipitation over a 30-yr period using the modified analytical dynamic recycling model. This computationally efficient modeling framework reveals previously overlooked moisture source regions such as Central America and the Caribbean Sea in addition to the well-known Gulf of California and Gulf of Mexico source regions. The results show that terrestrial evapotranspiration is as important as oceanic evaporation for NAM precipitation, and terrestrial sources contribute to approximately 40% of monsoonal moisture. There is a northward progression of terrestrial moisture sources, beginning with Central America during the early season and transitioning north into northern Mexico and the NAM region itself during the peak of the monsoon season. The most intense precipitation occurs toward the end of the season and tends to originate in the Gulf of California and the tropical Pacific, associated with tropical cyclones and gulf surges. Heavy stable isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen in precipitation (δD and δ18O) collected for every precipitation event measured in Tucson, Arizona, for the period 1981-2008 complement the numerical results. The analysis shows that precipitation events linked to sources from the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea are more isotopically enriched than sources from the Gulf of California and tropical Pacific. It is also seen that terrestrial regions that derive their precipitation from the Gulf of Mexico are also more isotopically enriched than moisture sources from the Pacific.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)19-35
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Hydrometeorology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015



  • Atmosphere-land interaction
  • Monsoons
  • Precipitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science

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