Training course on the theory, analytics and interpretation of stable water isotopes and carbon isotopes in the coupled Earth System

January 18, 2021 – January 21, 2021 all-day
GFI/GEO and FARLAB at the University of Bergen

Responsible: Harald Sodemann / UiB
Invited lecturers: Ulysses Ninnemann / UiB; Pål Tore Mørkved / UiB; Hans Christian Steen-Larsen / UiB; Guiliana Panieri / UiT
Max. no. of participants: ca. 15
Credit point: 1 ECTS
Registration form here (deadline: 4 January 2021)

Course description

In this training course, we will provide an in-depth introduction to understanding the principles and applications of stable water isotopes and carbon isotopes across different components of the Earth System, through lectures, conceptual model exercises, laboratory experiments and data analysis. We will also introduce participants to the respective analytical procedures at the national reference laboratory FARLAB at UiB, and recommend sample collection procedures.
The course will use an active teaching approach, and participants are invited to bring an own sample to be processed at the laboratory during the training course.


Day 1: Lectures will cover fundamental principles of isotope fractionation with a focus on water isotopes (H216O, H217O, H218O, HDO) and carbon (d13C) in several components of the climate system, including atmosphere, hydrosphere, and cryosphere. In order to constrain the role of carbon in major earth system transitions, lectures will cover inter-reservoir exchanges of carbon and mechanisms and processes for sediment-biosphere-atmosphere-ocean reservoir exchange on different timescales and Earth system events. Current measurement principles based on Cavity-Ring Down Spectroscopy and Mass Spectroscopy are reviewed. In the afternoon, students set up a simple evaporation experiment and prepare test samples for isotope analysis in the laboratory at FARLAB.

Day 2: Lectures will focus on fractionation during phase transitions in atmospheric systems, including evaporation and condensation processes. Classical and advanced models for evaporation and condensation processes, from the Rayleigh model, to single-column microphysics models, to grid scale models will be presented. In the afternoon, students will run different model case studies, and prepare samples from evaporation experiments in the laboratory.

Day 3: Lectures will introduce calibration procedures, and students will work on calibration and correction procedures for water and carbon isotope analysis systems. In the afternoon, students work on preparing results from the evaporation experiments and compare their results with respect to predictions from an evaporation model.

Day 4: Students will present the results from their sample analysis in short presentations. Final lectures will focus on sampling procedures, analytical uncertainty for different systems. Spatial representativeness of measurements in different phases and systems are presented and discussed, including a brainstorming exercise for potential future work based on the course content.

In the case that COVID-19 restrictions prevent in-person classes, laboratory experiments will be replaced by instruction videos produced at FARLAB, and experiments will be conducted at home before the course, and resulting samples send to FARLAB for analysis before the course, such that analytical results can be utilized during the course.


Through our course, participants will gain theoretical and practical in-depth knowledge in the stable water isotope and carbon isotope analysis, as well as a broader understanding for interpreting the isotope signal from different components in the coupled Earth System at a graduate level.

At completion of the course, participants will have reached the following outcomes and benefits:


– gain understanding of water isotope fractionation processes
– acquire knowledge of isotopes in the coupled ocean/atmosphere/land/ice system
– know about current measurement techniques
– know about recommended sampling procedures


– apply a simple isotope fractionation model
– perform simple evaporation experiment
– prepare and process own samples on state-of-the-art instrumentation