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Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research

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Ecology -- Antarctica -- McMurdo Dry Valleys, Meltwater -- Antarctica -- McMurdo Dry Valleys


The hydrologic system of the coastal McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, is defined by snow accumulation, glacier melt, stream flow, and retention in closed-basin, ice-covered lakes. During the austral summers from 1993-1996 and 1999-2000 to 2002-2003, fresh snow, snow pits, glacier ice, stream water, and lake waters were sampled for the stable isotopes deuterium (D) and 18O in order to resolve sources of meltwater and the interactions among the various hydrologic reservoirs in the dry valleys. This data set provides a survey of the distribution of natural water isotope abundances within the well-defined dry valley hydrologic system in Taylor Valley, which extends 20 km inland from McMurdo Sound. The three major Taylor Valley lakes are not connected to one another hydrologically, and their levels are maintained by glacial meltwater inflow and perennial ice-cover sublimation. At the valley scale, glacial ice, snow, stream, and lake waters become more depleted in delta D with increasing distance from McMurdo Sound (further inland). Snow pack in glacial accumulation zones is heterogeneous, likely a result of varying storm sources (continental versus coastal), and, in general, snow pits, fresh snow samples, and glacier ice are more depleted than stream waters. Within the lake basins, glacial ice source waters are depleted by as much as 111ppm delta D and 20 ppm delta 18O compared to lake waters. These results demonstrate the importance of in-stream fractionation at the valley scale. In-stream fractionation occurs through direct evaporation from the channel and hyporheic exchange with isotopically enriched waters in the near-stream subsurface during transport from the glacial source to lake. Furthermore, the results show that lake waters directly reflect their glacial ice sources, despite fractionation during stream transport. Inter-annual comparisons of lake profiles suggest that lake waters are directly influenced by the isotopic composition and amount of stream flow during a season.


Article originally published in Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research.



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