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Experimental formation of pore fluids in McMurdo Dry Valleys soils

  • Joseph Levy (a1), Andrew Fountain (a2), W. Berry Lyons (a3) and Kathy Welch (a3)

The aim of the study was to determine if soil salt deliquescence and brine hydration can occur under laboratory conditions using natural McMurdo Dry Valleys soils. The experiment was a laboratory analogue for the formation of isolated patches of hypersaline, damp soil, referred to as ‘wet patches’. Soils were oven dried and then hydrated in one of two humidity chambers: one at 100% relative humidity and the second at 75% relative humidity. Soil hydration is highly variable, and over the course of 20 days of hydration, ranged from increases in water content by mass from 0–16% for 122 soil samples from Taylor Valley. The rate and absolute amount of soil hydration correlates well with the soluble salt content of the soils but not with grain size distribution. This suggests that the formation of bulk pore waters in these soils is a consequence of salt deliquescence and hydration of the brine from atmospheric water vapour.

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Antarctic Science
  • ISSN: 0954-1020
  • EISSN: 1365-2079
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