Hostname: page-component-594f858ff7-c4bbg Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-06-09T22:27:38.768Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "corePageComponentUseShareaholicInsteadOfAddThis": true, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Characterization of active layer water contents in the McMurdo Sound region, Antarctica

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 December 2010

C.A. Seybold*
USDA-NRCS, National Soil Survey Center, 100 Centennial Mall North, Federal Building, Rm. 152, Lincoln, NE 68508-3866, USA
M.R. Balks
Earth & Ocean Sciences, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3102, Hamilton, New Zealand
D.S. Harms
USDA-NRCS, National Soil Survey Center, 100 Centennial Mall North, Federal Building, Rm. 152, Lincoln, NE 68508-3866, USA


The liquid soil water contents in the seasonally thawed layer (active layer) were characterized from seven soil climate monitoring sites - four coastal sites from south to north (Minna Bluff, Scott Base, Marble Point and Granite Harbour), and inland sites from low to high altitude (Wright Valley, Victoria Valley and Mount Fleming). Mean water contents ranged from 0.013 m3 m-3 near the surface at Victoria Valley to 0.33 m3 m-3 near the ice-cemented layer at Granite Harbour. The coastal sites have greater soil water contents than the McMurdo Dry Valley and Mount Fleming sites, and moisture contents increase with depth in the active layer. The Wright Valley site receives very little infiltration from snowmelt, with none in most years. All other sites, except Mount Fleming, received between one and four wetting events per summer, and infiltrated water moved to greater depths (≈ 10–25 cm). The Scott Base and Granite Harbour sites are on sloping ground and receive a subsurface flow of water along the ice-cemented permafrost. Our findings indicate that water contents are low with very little recharge, are greatly influenced by the local microclimate and topography, and show no significant increasing or decreasing trend over 10 years of monitoring.

Research Article
Copyright © Antarctic Science Ltd 2010

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Adlam, L.S., Balks, M.R., Seybold, C.A. Campbell, D.I. 2010. Temporal and spatial variation in active layer depth in the McMurdo Sound region, Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 22, 4552.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Balks, M.R., Paetzold, R.F., Kimble, J.M., Aislabie, J. Campbell, I.B. 2002. Effects of hydrocarbon spills on the temperature and moisture regimes of Cryosols in the Ross Sea region. Antarctic Science, 14, 319326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Barrett, J.E., Virginia, R.A., Hopkins, D.W., Aislabie, J., Bargagli, R., Bockheim, J.G., Campbell, I.B., Lyons, W.B., Moorhead, D.L., Nkem, J.N., Sletten, R.S., Steltzer, H., Wall, D.H. Wallenstien, M.D. 2006. Terrestrial ecosystem processes of Victoria Land, Antarctica. Soil Biology & Biochemistry, 38, 30193034.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bockheim, J.G. 2008. Functional diversity of soils along environmental gradients in the Ross Sea region, Antarctica. Geoderma, 144, 3242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bower, H. Rice, R.C. 1984. Hydraulic properties of stony vadose zones. Ground Water, 22, 696705.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Burt, R. 2004. Soil survey laboratory methods manual. Soil Survey Investigations Report, No. 42, ver.4.0. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 700 pp. [Available on-line at]Google Scholar
Cameron, R. Conrow, H.P. 1969. Soil moisture, relative humidity, and microbial abundance in Dry Valleys of Southern Victoria Land. Antarctic Journal of the United States, 4(1), 2328.Google Scholar
Campbell, I.B., Claridge, G.G.C. Balks, M.R. 1994. The effect of human activities on moisture content of soils and underlying permafrost from the McMurdo Sound region, Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 6, 307314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Campbell, I.B., Claridge, G.G.C., Balks, M.R. Campbell, D.I. 1997. Moisture content in soils of the McMurdo Sound and Dry Valley region of Antarctica. In Lyons, W.B., Howard-Williams, C. & Hawes, I., eds. Ecosystem processes in Antarctic ice-free landscapes. Rotterdam: Balkema, 6176.Google Scholar
Cannone, N., Wagner, D., Hubberten, H.W. Guglielmin, M. 2008. Biotic and abiotic factors influencing soil properties across a latitudinal gradient in Victoria Land, Antarctica. Geoderma, 144, 5065.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Doran, P.T., McKay, C.P., Fountain, A.G., Nylen, T., McKnight, D.M., Jaros, C. Barett, J.E. 2008. Hydrologic response to extreme warm and cold summers in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, East Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 20, 499509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fountain, A.G., Hylen, T.H., Monaghan, A., Basagic, H.J. Bromwich, D. 2009. Snow in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. International Journal of Climatology, 10.1002/joc.1933CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gooseff, M.N., Barrett, J.E., Doran, P.T., Fountain, A.G., Lyons, W.B., Porazinsk, D.L., Virginia, R.A. Wall, D.H. 2003. Snow-patch influence on soil biogeochemical processes and invertebrate distribution in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 35, 9199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hagedorn, B., Sletten, R.S. Hallet, B. 2007. Sublimation and ice condensation in hyperarid soils: modeling results using field data from Victoria Valley, Antarctica. Journal of Geophysical Research, 112, 10.1029/2006JF000580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hagedorn, B., Sletten, R.S., Hallet, B., McTigue, D.F. Steig, E.J. 2010. Ground ice recharge via brine transport in frozen soils in Victoria Valley, Antarctica: insights from modeling δ18O and δD profiles. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 74, 435448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jury, W.A., Gardner, W.R. Garnder, W.H. 1991. Soil physics, 5th ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 352 pp.Google Scholar
Kelleners, T.J., Ferre-Pikal, E.S., Schaap, M.G. Paige, G.B. 2009. Calibration of hydra impedance probes using electric circuit theory. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 73, 453465.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lundin, L.-C. Johnsson, H. 1994. Ion dynamics of a freezing soil monitored in situ by time domain reflectometry. Water Resources Research, 30, 34713478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Michalski, G., Bockheim, J.G., Kendall, C. Thiemens, M. 2005. Isotopic composition of Antarctica Dry Valley nitrate: implications for NOy sources and cycling in Antarctica. Geophysical Research Letters, 32, 10.1029/2004GL022121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sauer, T.J. Logsdon, S.D. 2002. Hydraulic and physical properties of stony soils in a small watershed. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 66, 19471956.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Seyfried, M.S., Grant, L.E., Du, E. Humes, K. 2005. Dielectric loss and calibration of the hydra probe soil water sensor. Vadose Zone Journal, 4, 10701079.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Soil Survey Staff 2006. Keys to soil taxonomy, 10th ed. Washington, DC: United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service, 331 pp. [Available online at]Google Scholar
Spaans, E.J.A. Baker, J.M. 1996. The soil freezing characteristic: its measurement and similarity to the soil moisture characteristic. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 60, 1319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stevens 2007. The hydra probe soil sensor: comprehensive Stevens hydra probe users manual. Beaverton, OR: Stevens Water Monitoring Systems, 63 pp.Google Scholar
Stevens Vitel 1994. Hydra soil moisture probe user’s manual. Version 1.2 Chantilly, VA: Stevens Vitel, 22 pp.Google Scholar
Witherow, R.A., Lyons, W.B., Bertler, N.A.N., Welch, K.A., Mayewski, P.A., Sneed, S.B., Nylen, T., Handley, M.J. Fountain, A. 2006. The Aeolian flux of calcium, chloride and nitrate to the McMurdo Dry Valleys landscape: evidence from snow pit analysis. Antarctic Science, 18, 497505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar