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[Roll mouse over nuclei to animate.] (Illustration by Robert Simmon, NASA GSFC) As air cools by rising into the atmosphere or moving toward the poles, moisture begins to condense and fall as precipitation.O—results in differentiation of the isotopes in the Earth’s atmosphere and hydrosphere.
The standard scientists use for comparison is based on the ratio of oxygen isotopes in ocean water at a depth of 200-500 meters.
“Light” oxygen-16, with 8 protons and 8 neutrons, is the most common isotope found in nature, followed by much lesser amounts of “heavy” oxygen-18, with 8 protons and 10 neutrons.
The ratio (relative amount) of these two types of oxygen in water changes with the climate.
by Holli Riebeek • May 6, 2005 Oxygen is one of the most significant keys to deciphering past climates.
Oxygen comes in heavy and light varieties, or isotopes, which are useful for paleoclimate research.