Several firn/ice cores were recovered from the Siberian Altai (Belukha plateau), central Tien Shan (Inilchek glacier) and the Tibetan Plateau (Zuoqiupu glacier, Bomi) from 1998 to 2003. The comparison analyses of stable-isotope/geochemistry records obtained from these firn/ice cores identified the physical links controlling the climate-related signals at the seasonal-scale variability. The core data related to physical stratigraphy, meteorology and synoptic atmospheric dynamics were the basis for calibration, validation and clustering of the relationships between the firn-/ice-core isotope/ geochemistry and snow accumulation, air temperature and precipitation origin. The mean annual accumulation (in water equivalent) was 106 gcm−2 a−1 at Inilchek glacier, 69 gcm−2 a−1 at Belukha and 196 g cm−2 a−1 at Zuoqiupu. The slopes in regression lines between the δ18O ice-core records and air temperature were found to be positive for the Tien Shan and Altai glaciers and negative for southeastern Tibet, where heavy amounts of isotopically depleted precipitation occur during summer monsoons. The technique of coupling synoptic climatology and meteorological data with δ18O and d-excess in firn-core records was developed to determine climate-related signals and to identify the origin of moisture. In Altai, two-thirds of accumulation from 1984 to 2001 was formed from oceanic precipitation, and the rest of the precipitation was recycled over Aral–Caspian sources. In the Tien Shan, 87% of snow accumulation forms by precipitation originating from the Aral–Caspian closed basin, the eastern Mediterranean and Black Seas, and 13% from the North Atlantic.