Sampling was carried out at Baishui glacier No. 1, the largest glacier on Yulong mountain, China, during the summers of 1999 and 2000, to investigate the spatial variations of oxygen isotopes in the atmosphere–glacier–river system. the results confirm that there is an apparent inverse relation between the oxygen isotopic composition of precipitation and air-temperature/precipitation amount in this region, with lower δ
18O values when the amount of precipitation and air temperature in summer is higher, due to the influence of intense monsoon climate on the study area. There are marked differences in the δ
18O values of winter-accumulated snow, glacial meltwater, summer precipitation and the glacier-fed river water. Spatial and temporal variations of isotopic composition are controlled by varied weather conditions at different altitudes. Isotopic depletion or fractionation occurs during phase changes, snow-to-ice and ice-to-meltwater transformations and runoff processes.Variations of stable isotopes in glacier runoff can indicate variations of sources of supply. Ionic changes occur as a result of meltwater contact with glacier bed materials.