Future scenarios

The future of Taylor Valley under projected warming is one of reduced lake ice cover, increased lake volume and reduced soil habitat in the lower valleys. A new model as part of a Maciek Obryk’s PhD thesis is near completion and predicts that under current climate trends (last 10 years), the lakes will start to seasonally ice-out within the next few decades (Fig. 1). This will dramatically increase summer light levels and wind driven mixing, and alter many chemical and biological processes. In the longer term, as lake levels rise, Lake Hoare and Fryxell will merge into one lake which flows into McMurdo Sound (Fig. 2). That lake will be at 80 m asl. Lake Bonney will grow until it spills into the Hoare/Fryxell Basin. The height of the greater Lake Bonney will be ~125 m asl (interpolated bedrock sill is currently under the Suess Glacier). The lakes may quickly become joined depending on the resistance of that sill. At current rates of lake level increase, the joining of the lakes may occur in 400 to 500 years.

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Figure 1: The simple physics based ice cover model is solved using a one-dimensional heat equation dynamically coupled with atmosphere and the underlying water column. Future ice thickness prediction is based on daily averages calculated using 10-years of data (2002-2012). Red points are observations, black line is model prediction. is model prediction.

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Figure 2: Projected future of Taylor Valley based largely on a digital elevation model and knowledge of critical sill points. Sea level is depicted at 10 meters above present, which is viewed as a worst case with WAIS collapse