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MNIP: A School-Based Network To Study The Synoptic Controls on Precipitation Isotopes
Danny Blair1,2, William Mark Buhay1,2 and Heather Robinson3
of Geography, University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3B 2E9
2Centre for Forest Interdisciplinary Research (C-FIR), University of Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3B 2E9
3Science Council Manitoba, Youth Stewardship in Environmental Sustainability Project, 310 Vaughan Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3B 2N8
Funding Sources: University of Winnipeg, C-FIR, Science Council Manitoba, The Winnipeg Foundation
Manitoba Network for Isotopes in
Precipitation (MNIP)
Building on the initiatives of the Canadian Network for Isotopes in
Precipitation (CNIP), the recently established Manitoba Network
for Isotopes in Precipitation (MNIP) enlists a network of
Manitoba schools to collect precipitation.
MNIP has been adopted by the Youth Stewardship in
Environmental Sustainability Project (YSESP) and, under the
auspices of Science Council Manitoba (and with additional
funding from the University of Winnipeg and The Winnipeg
Foundation), has been implemented as a curriculum addition to
help address climate change issues in public schools.
Through these partnerships, each school is equipped with a rain
gauge and snow collector constructed from low-cost PVC tubing
and galvanized duct parts. The precipitation collecting devices
are housed in an MNIP station box constructed from ½” plywood.
MNIP: Phase 1 and
Phase 2
To date, some 50 schools from
across the province have
expressed interest in becoming
participating members of MNIP.
At present ~20 schools have
been issued precipitation
collection stations ( MNIP
Phase 1) and a number of other
locations are being considered
to expand the network in the
near future ( MNIP Phase 2).
500 mb Heights (m): 12Z January 7 1992
8” X 6”
plain reducer
6” galvanized
fish lock collar
6” galvanized
end cap (snow
rain collector: 1” PVC
tubing, “T” connector
and caps
rain gauge: 3” PVC
tubing and cap
snow collector: galvanized
duct plain reducer,
fish collar and end cap
Precipitation collection and Isotope Analyses
Connecting Schools To Science
Climate change is arguably the most important environmental problem of the
modern age. Importantly, Manitoba is expected to experience some of the most
significant changes to climate over the next decades, and beyond. The MNIP
program will promote the direct involvement of Manitoban students and
teachers in a project designed to assess the nature of climate variability and
change. In so doing, it enhances the awareness of the climate change issue, and
directly involves teachers and students in the science being conducted to assess
the nature of climate change and climate change uncertainty.
The 500 mb map is useful for showing the large scale flow across
North America. In this case it shows the presence of a pronounced
trough west and south of Manitoba. It appears that the southern part
of the province is largely under the influence of air originating from
the north and west.
Ideally, a successful MNIP project will promote the establishment of densely
distributed isotope precipitation collection networks in other regions of North
Manitoba: An Ideal Air
Mass Laboratory
Each participating school will have students monitor the weather and
collect weekly accumulated precipitation for subsequent analysis at the
University of Winnipeg Isotope Laboratory (UWIL).
University of Winnipeg Isotope Laboratory
Manitoba, quite literally in the heart of
North America, is an ideal place to
study the influence of air masses on
the isotopic composition of
precipitation. The province is affected
by a wide variety of air masses. Very
importantly, the region experiences
a remarkable amount of short and
long-term atmospheric circulation
variability. For example, a particular
month can be dominated by deep
upper-level troughing in one year
(often associated with colder than
normal temperatures), but the same
month in the following year can be
dominated by pronounced upper-level
ridging (usually associated with
warmer than colder temperatures).
Thus, analogues for a wide variety
of circulation anomaly scenarios of
interest to paleoclimatologists, and
others, are observed in Manitoba.
500 mb Heights (m): 1979-1998 January Normal
Central North America, including Manitoba, is normally dominated by
the North American trough, bringing cold and dry air from the arctic
into the heart of the continent.
MNIP Supports Isotope-Based Atmospheric Model
The oxygen and hydrogen isotopic analyses will be stored in a network
data base. The results and subsequent interpretations will be
disseminated to students and teachers on an MNIP Project web page.
500 mb Height (m) Anomalies (m): 12Z January 7 1992
By subtracting the normal January heights from the map for January
7, 1992, one produces an anomaly map which can be interpreted
as a synoptic map. That is, areas of negative heights can be
viewed as depressions and positive heights as highs. By inferring
geostrophic flows around these anomaly centres, one arrives at a
map indicating anomalous flows. In this instance, the anomalous
flow into southern Manitoba is from the south and east. This may
explain why the δ18O value from precipitation in Winnipeg on this day
was –17.32 ‰ (SMOW), higher than the normal for this time of year
(about –20 ‰ (SMOW)). That is, the precipitation on this day
appears to have been relatively enriched by a moisture flux from
the south.
Using MNIP to Study the Effect of Atmospheric Anomalies on
the Isotopic Composition of Precipitation
The dense distribution of MNIP precipitation collection sites supports the spatial
resolution (2.8º longitude) necessary to accurately test atmospheric global circulation
models such as ECHAM4 (4th generation model developed through a collaborative
effort between the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts and
Max-Planck-Institüt für Meteorologie, HAMburg, Germany) that incorporate precipitation
isotope data.
With a dense network of stations from across the province of
Manitoba, the MNIP team will be in a position to investigate the
influence of atmospheric anomalies (e.g., height and flow anomalies)
on the isotopic composition of precipitation. With the broad goal of
identifying the relative impact of large-scale air mass streams,
anomalies at pressure levels from the 850 to 500 mb levels will be
investigated, rather than the complex surface and near-surface
fields. By developing a synoptic climatology of atmospheric
anomalies (at a variety of atmospheric levels, using an eigenvectorbased classification), in conjunction with temperature and humidity
data, the MNIP team will produce a model which can be used to
determine the influence of air mass source, distance traveled,
and underlying terrain, especially in the context of large-scale
atmospheric anomalies such as ENSO and other teleconnection