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The meromictic lakes and stratified marine basins of the Vestfold Hills, East Antarctica

  • John A.E. Gibson (a1) (a2)

Thirty-four permanently stratified water bodies were identified in a survey of the Vestfold Hills. Of these, 21 were lakes, six were seasonally isolated marine basins (SIMBs), and seven were marine basins with year round connection to the open ocean. The basins varied markedly in salinity (4 g l−1 to 235 g l−1), temperature (−14°C to 24°C), depth (5 m to 110 m), area (3.6 ha to 146 ha) and surface level (−30 m to 29 m above sea level). The stratification in all the basins was maintained by increases in salinity. During winter, a thermohaline convection cell was present in all lakes and SIMBs directly beneath the ice cover. These cells were the result of brine exclusion from the forming ice, and increased in density throughout winter, penetrating progressively deeper into the lake. Minimum stability, and therefore the maximum likelihood of turnover, occurred at the time of maximum ice formation in spring. At the end of the period of ice formation, the convection cell broke down, and stratification of the surface water occurred. When the ice melted completely, lenses of relatively fresh water capped the lakes, which reduced the effect of wind mixing. Net meltwater input increased the stability of the meromictic basins, while periods of lower water level resulted in deeper penetration of the thermohaline convection cell, increasing the possibility of turnover and destratification.

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Antarctic Science
  • ISSN: 0954-1020
  • EISSN: 1365-2079
  • URL: /core/journals/antarctic-science
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