Perennially ice-covered lakes in the McMurdo Dry Valleys have risen several meters over the past two decades due to climatic warming and increased glacial meltwater inflow. To elucidate the hydrologic responses to changing climate and the effects on lake mixing processes we measured the stable isotope (??18O and ??D) and tritium concentrations of water and ice samples collected in the Lake Fryxell watershed from 1987 through 1990. Stable isotope enrichment resulted from evaporation in stream and moat samples and from sublimation in surface lake-ice samples. Tritium enrichment resulted from exchange with the postnuclear atmosphere in stream and moat samples. Rapid injection of tritiated water into the upper water column of the make and incorporation of this water into the ice cover resulted in uniformly elevated tritium contents (> 3.0 TU) in these reservoirs. Tritium was also present in deep water, suggesting that a component of bottom water was recently at the surface. During summer, melted lake ice and stream water forms the moat. Water excluded from ice formation during fall moat freezing (enriched in solutes and tritium, and depleted in 18O and 2H relative to water below 15-m depth) may sink as density currents to the bottom of the lake. Seasonal lake circulation, in response to climate-driven surface inflow, is therefore responsible for the distribution of both water isotopes and dissolved solutes in Lake Fryxell.
Additional publication details
Effects of glacial meltwater inflows and moat freezing on mixing in an ice-covered antarctic lake as interpreted from stable isotope and tritium distributions