Skip to main content Accessibility help

Hyperspectral measurements of wet, dry and saline soils from the McMurdo Dry Valleys: soil moisture properties from remote sensing

  • Joseph Levy (a1), Anne Nolin (a2), Andrew Fountain (a3) and James Head (a4)

Soil moisture is a spatially heterogeneous quantity in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica that exerts a large influence on the biological community and on the thermal state of Dry Valleys permafrost. The goal of this project was to determine whether hyperspectral remote sensing techniques could be used to determine soil moisture conditions in the Dry Valleys. We measured the spectral reflectance factors of wetted soil samples from the Dry Valleys under natural light conditions and related diagnostic spectral features to surface layer soil moisture content. Diagnostic water absorption features in the spectra at 1.4 µm and 1.9 µm were present in all samples, including samples doped with high concentrations of chloride salts. The depth of the 1.4 µm absorption is shown to increase linearly with increasing gravimetric water content. These results suggest that airborne hyperspectral imaging of the Dry Valleys could generate soil moisture maps of this environment over large spatial areas using non-invasive remote-sensing techniques.

Corresponding author
Hide All
Abrams, M. 2000. The Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER): data products for the high spatial resolution imager on NASA’s Terra platform. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 21, 847859.
Barrett, J.E., Gooseff, M.N. & Takacs-Vesbach, C. 2009. Spatial variation in soil active-layer geochemistry across hydrologic margins in polar desert ecosystems. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 13, 23492358.
Bockheim, J.G., Campbell, I.B. & McLeod, M. 2007. Permafrost distribution and active-layer depths in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, 18, 217227.
Campbell, I.B., Claridge, G.G.C., Campbell, D.I. & Balks, M.R. 1998. The soil environment of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Antarctic Research Series, 72, 297322.
Clark, R.N. & Roush, T.L. 1984. Reflectance spectroscopy: quantitative analysis techniques for remote sensing applications. Journal of Geophysical Research - Solid Earth, 89, 63296340.
Chinn, T.J. 1993. Physical hydrology of the Dry Valleys lakes. Antarctic Research Series, 59, 152.
Crowley, J.K. 1991. Visible and near-infrared (0.4–2.5 µm) reflectance spectra of Playa evaporate minerals. Journal of Geophysical Research - Solid Earth, 96, 16 23116 240.
Entekhabi, D., Jackson, T.J., Njoku, E., O’Neill, P. & Entin, J. 2008. Soil moisture active/passive (SMAP) mission concept. SPIE Proceedings, 7085, 10.1117/12.795910.
Entekhabi, D., Njoku, E.G. & O’Neill, P.E. et al. 2010. The soil moisture active passive (SMAP) mission. Proceedings of the IEEE, 98, 704716.
Finn, M.P., Lewis, M., Bosch, D.D., Giraldo, M., Yamamoto, K., Sullivan, D.G. & Kincaid, R. 2011. Remote sensing of soil moisture using airborne hyperspectral data. GIScience & Remote Sensing, 48, 522540.
Gooseff, M.N., Barrett, J.E. & Levy, J.S. 2013. Shallow groundwater systems in a polar desert, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Hydrogeology Journal, 21, 171183.
Graser, E.A. & van Bavel, C.H.M. 1982. The effect of soil moisture upon soil albedo. Agricultural Meteorology, 27, 1726.
Green, R.O., Eastwood, M.L. & Sarture, C.M. et al. 1998. Imaging spectroscopy and the airborne visible/infrared imaging spectrometer (AVIRIS). Remote Sensing of Environment, 65, 227248.
Harris, K.J., Carey, A.E., Lyons, W.B., Welch, K.A. & Fountain, A.G. 2007. Solute and isotope geochemistry of subsurface ice melt seeps in Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 119, 548555.
Hunt, H.W., Treonis, A.M., Wall, D.H. & Virginia, R.A. 2007. A mathematical model for variation in water-retention curves among sandy soils. Antarctic Science, 19, 427436.
Idso, S.B., Jackson, R.D., Reginato, R.J., Kimball, B.A. & Nakayama, F.S. 1975. Dependence of bare soil albedo on soil water content. Journal of Applied Meteorology, 14, 109113.
Ikard, S.J., Gooseff, M.N., Barrett, J.E. & Takacs-Vesbach, C. 2009. Thermal characterisation of active layer across a soil moisture gradient in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, 20, 2739.
Kennedy, A.D. 1993. Water as a limiting factor in the Antarctic terrestrial environment: a biogeographical synthesis. Arctic and Alpine Research, 25, 308315.
Levy, J.S., Fountain, A.G., Welch, K.A. & Lyons, W.B. 2012b. Hypersaline “wet patches” in Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Geophysical Research Letters, 39, 10.1029/2012GL050898.
Levy, J.S., Fountain, A.G., Gooseff, M.N., Welch, K.A. & Lyons, W.B. 2011. Water tracks and permafrost in Taylor Valley, Antarctica: extensive and shallow groundwater connectivity in a cold desert ecosystem. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 123, 22952311.
Levy, J., Fountain, A., Gooseff, M., Barrett, J., Wall, D., Nielsen, U., Adams, B. & Lyons, W.B. 2012a. Active layer processes in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica: decadal trends and experimental responses to changes in soil moisture. Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Permafrost, 221226.
Levy, J.S., Fountain, A.G., Gooseff, M.N., Barrett, J.E., Vantreese, R., Welch, K.A., Lyons, W.B., Nielsen, U.N. & Wall, D.H. 2013. Water track modification of soil ecosystems in the Lake Hoare basin, Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 10.1017/S095410201300045X.
Lobell, D.B. & Asner, G.P. 2002. Moisture effects on soil reflectance. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 66, 722727.
Lorenz, D. 1966. The effect of the long-wave reflectivity of natural surfaces on surface temperature measurements using radiometers. Journal of Applied Meteorology, 5, 421430.
Lyons, W.B., Welch, K.A., Carey, A.E., Doran, P.T., Wall, D.H., Virginia, R.A., Fountain, A.G., Csatho, B.M. & Tremper, C.M. 2005. Groundwater seeps in Taylor Valley Antarctica: an example of a subsurface melt event. Annals of Glaciology, 40, 200206.
Massé, M., Beck, P., Schmitt, B., Pommerol, A., Mcewen, A., Chevrier, V.F. & Brissaud, O. 2012. Nature and origin of RSL: spectroscopy and detectability of liquid brines in the near-infrared. Lunar and Planetary Institute Science Conference Abstracts, 43, 1856.
McKnight, D.M., Niyogi, D.K., Alger, A.S., Bomblies, A., Conovitz, P.A. & Tate, C.M. 1999. Dry valley streams in Antarctica: ecosystems waiting for water. BioScience, 49, 985995.
Salvatore, M.R., Mustard, J.F., Head, J.W., Marchant, D.R. & Wyatt, M.B. 2013. Characterization of spectral and geochemical variability within the Ferrar Dolerite of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica: weathering, alteration, and magmatic processes. Antarctic Science, 10.1017/S0954102013000254.
Schaepman-Strub, G., Schaepman, M.E., Painter, T.H., Dangel, S. & Martonchik, J.V. 2006. Reflectance quantities in optical remote sensing – definitions and case studies. Remote Sensing of Environment, 103, 2742.
Stichbury, G., Brabyn, L., Allan Green, T.G. & Cary, C. 2011. Spatial modelling of wetness for the Antarctic Dry Valleys. Polar Research, 30, 10.3402/polar.v30i0.6330.
Toner, J.D., Sletten, R.S. & Prentice, M.L. 2013. Soluble salt accumulations in Taylor Valley, Antarctica: implications for paleolakes and Ross Sea ice sheet dynamics. Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, 118, 198215.
Ugolini, F.C. & Anderson, D.M. 1973. Ionic migration and weathering in frozen Antarctic soils. Soil Science, 115, 461470.
Virginia, R.A. & Wall, D.H. 1999. How soils structure communities in the Antarctic dry valleys. BioScience, 49, 973983.
Wilson, A.T. 1979. Geochemical problems of the Antarctic dry areas. Nature, 280, 205208.
Wyatt, M.B., Head, J.W., Marchant, D.R., Harvey, R.P., Christensen, P.R., Salvatore, M.R. & Horodyskyj, U.N. 2010. Orbital spectral mapping of surface compositions in the Antarctic Dry Valleys: regional distributions of secondary mineral-phases as climate indicators and implications for Mars. Lunar and Planetary Institute Science Conference Abstracts, 41, 2275.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Antarctic Science
  • ISSN: 0954-1020
  • EISSN: 1365-2079
  • URL: /core/journals/antarctic-science
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Type Description Title
Supplementary materials

Levy Supplementary Material
Supplementary Material

 PDF (2.4 MB)
2.4 MB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed