Hypersaline “wet patches” in Taylor Valley, Antarctica

PDF version
TitleHypersaline “wet patches” in Taylor Valley, Antarctica
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsLevy, JS, Fountain, AG, Welch, KA, W Lyons, B
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Date Published03/2012

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 may ultimately be sourced by the deliquescence of soil salts. These wet patches represent a non-precipitation, non-groundwater source for water into Antarctic permafrost.