Subglacial Lake Whillans, West Antarctica; Solute Dynamics and Fluxes to the Ross Sea

Friday, 19 December 2014: 9:45 AM
Mark L Skidmore1, Alexander B Michaud1, Amanda Achberger2, Carlo Barbante3, Brent Craig Christner2, Jill Mikucki4, Andrew C Mitchell5, John C Priscu1, Alicia M. Purcell4, Will van Gelder1 and Trista Vick-Majors1, (1)Montana State University, Bozeman, MT, United States, (2)Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, United States, (3)University of Venice, Venice, Italy, (4)University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, United States, (5)Aberystwyth University, Geography & Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth, United Kingdom
Subglacial Lake Whillans is located beneath the Whillans Ice Stream in West Antarctica. The lake is situated beneath 800 m of ice and ~ 70 km upstream of the grounding line where Whillans Ice Stream terminates into the Ross Sea. Subglacial Lake Whillans is a shallow lake and a component of a complex subglacial hydrological system that may resemble a large wetland along the Siple Coast of West Antarctica. Subglacial Lake Whillans drains and refills on a sub-decadal time scale discharging water towards the Ross Sea.

Water and sediment samples were recovered from the lake, using clean access drilling technologies, in January, 2013. Isotopic analysis of the lake waters indicates basal meltwater from the ice sheet as the dominant water source. Geochemical analysis of the lake water reveals it is freshwater with mineral weathering as a significant solute source, with a minor contribution from sea water likely from relict marine sediments. Subglacial hydrothermal activity upstream may also contribute solutes. Nutrients N and P are present at micromolar concentrations. Sediment porewaters from shallow cores (~ 40 cm depth) of the subglacial lake sediments indicate increasing solute concentration with depth, with up to ~ five times greater solute concentrations than in the lake water. The waters and sediment contain metabolically active organisms which are likely involved in elemental cycling within the lake system.

Here we will discuss solute sources to the lake, solute dynamics within the lake waters and sediment, and the fluxes of solute and nutrients to the Ross Sea and their implications for these marine ecosystems.