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AGU: Geophysical Research Letters

 

Keywords

  • Antarctica
  • Brine
  • Hydrology
  • Permafrost

Index Terms

  • 0475 - Permafrost, cryosphere, and high-latitude processes
  • 1223 - Ocean/Earth/atmosphere/hydrosphere/cryosphere interactions
  • 1721 - Nonlinear geophysics
  • 1806 - Chemistry of fresh water
  • 9310 - Antarctica

Paper in Press

GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, doi:10.1029/2012GL050898

Hypersaline "wet patches" in Taylor Valley, Antarctica

Key Points
  • Unusual, isolated soil
  • This mechanism generates bulk soil water in the absence of precipitation.

Authors:

Joseph Sidney Levy

Andrew G. Fountain

Kathleen Ann Welch

Berry Lyons

Spatially isolated patches of soil located in Taylor Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, are sites of elevated salt content and soil moisture. During Antarctic spring, in the absence of snow melt, visibly wet (reduced albedo) patches of soil are present at the surface. The soil pore fluids are hypersaline and have average water activity of 0.74 (the water activity of a solution determines the equilibrium vapor pressure of that solution), and are an order of magnitude more saline than average soils in the Dry Valleys. These salty soils are 3-5 times more water rich than average soils. Geochemical and meteorological analyses show that these wet patches are sites of direct vapor emplacement into soil pore fluids that ultimately be sourced by the deliquescence of soil salts. These wet patches represent a non-precipitation, non-groundwater source for water into Antarctic permafrost.

Received 20 January 2012; accepted 8 February 2012.

Citation: Levy, J. S., A. G. Fountain, K. A. Welch, and B. Lyons (2012), Hypersaline "wet patches" in Taylor Valley, Antarctica, Geophys. Res. Lett., doi:10.1029/2012GL050898, in press.