Heating the Ice-Covered Lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica – Decadal Trends in Heat Content, Ice Thickness, and Heat Exchange

Monday, 15 December 2014: 3:28 PM
Michael N Gooseff1, John C Priscu2, Peter T Doran3, Amy Chiuchiolo2 and Maciej Obryk4, (1)Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, United States, (2)Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, United States, (3)Univ Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, IL, United States, (4)Portland State University, Portland, OR, United States
Lakes integrate landscape processes and climate conditions. Most of the permanently ice-covered lakes in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica are closed basin, receiving glacial melt water from streams for 10-12 weeks per year. Lake levels rise during the austral summer are balanced by sublimation of ice covers (year-round) and evaporation of open water moats (summer only). Vertical profiles of water temperature have been measured in three lakes in Taylor Valley since 1988. Up to 2002, lake levels were dropping, ice covers were thickening, and total heat contents were decreasing. These lakes have been gaining heat since the mid-2000s, at rates as high as 19.5x1014 cal/decade). Since 2002, lake levels have risen substantially (as much as 2.5 m), and ice covers have thinned (1.5 m on average). Analyses of lake ice thickness, meteorological conditions, and stream water heat loads indicate that the main source of heat to these lakes is from latent heat released when ice-covers form during the winter. An aditional source of heat to the lakes is water inflows from streams and direct glacieal melt. Mean lake temperatures in the past few years have stabilized or cooled, despite increases in lake level and total heat content, suggesting increased direct inflow of meltwater from glaciers. These results indicate that McMurdo Dry Valley lakes are sensitive indicators of climate processes in this polar desert landscape and demonstrate the importance of long-term data sets when addressing the effects of climate on ecosystem processes.