2012-2013 Science Planning Summaries
U.S. Antarctic Program - Science Support Section United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
Cryptic hydrology of the McMurdo Dry Valleys: Water track contributions to water and geochemical budgets in Taylor Valley, Antarctica

Program Manager:
Dr. Mark Kurz


ASC POC/Implementer:
Elizabeth Watson / Jessica Jenkins

Dr. Joseph Levy (Principal Investigator)

University of Texas Austin
Institute for Geophysics
Austin, Texas

Supporting Stations:  McMurdo Station
Research Locations:  F6 / Lakes Bonney and Hoare

Project Description:
Water tracks are narrow bands of high soil moisture that route water downslope, in the absence of overland flow, through permafrost dominated soils in polar regions. In water tracks, moisture moves as shallow groundwater, flowing through the permafrost active layer (the seasonally-thawed portion of permafrost) along linear depressions in the ice table (the portion of the permafrost that remains frozen and ice-cemented during summer months), resulting in channelized flow. Water tracks represent a largely unexplored frontier for understanding basic earth processes in Antarctica. This project will quantify the contribution of water tracks to water, solute, and basic carbon cycling on Antarctic hillslopes. Researchers aim to answer several questions about water tracks in Taylor Valley: (1) How much water flows through water tracks every year? (2) How much salt moves from highlands to lowlands in water tracks? (3) How do water tracks affect rock weathering in different lithological terrains? (4) How do water tracks affect Dry Valleys carbon budgets on glacial/interglacial timescales?

Field Season Overview:
In this first field season, participants will deploy to established camps in Taylor Valley (Hoare, F6, Bonney) on a rotating basis for brief, two-to-four day stays. Helicopters will provide camp-move logistics and the team members will return to Crary Lab to process and package the samples for shipment to the home institution. The researchers will install shallow (less than 50 centimeters deep) piezometers into Taylor Valley water tracks, install a small lysimeter at the Lake Hoare camp, and conduct shallow geophysical surveys (electromagnetic induction) up and down Taylor Valley.

Deploying Team Members:

  • Joseph Levy (PI)

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Curator: Esther L. Hill PhD, Antarctic Support Contract   |   NSF Official: Alexandra Isern, Office of Polar Programs