Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-203
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-203

  28 Aug 2020

28 Aug 2020

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Summer valley-floor snowfall in Taylor Valley, Antarctica from 1995–2017

Madeline E. Myers1,2, Peter T. Doran1, and Krista F. Myers1 Madeline E. Myers et al.
  • 1Department of Geology and Geophysics, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA
  • 2Department of Geography and Planning, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Abstract. In polar, coastal areas like Taylor Valley, snowfall is predicted to increase under warming conditions as reduced sea ice increases open water area and evaporation potential, thereby creating conditions that would facilitate precipitation. Taylor Valley is a mosaic of glaciers, valley-bottom ice-covered lakes, ephemeral streams and dark, rocky soils. Ecosystems are both light- and nutrient-limited and rely on seasonally available liquid water. Although Taylor Valley receives minimal snowfall annually, light snow cover during summer months reduces radiation for primary productivity and slows melting by increasing the local albedo. Snowfall has been measured at four sites in Taylor Valley since 1995. Daily photographs at the Lake Hoare station in the central portion of the valley record snow cover since 2007 and augment the automated precipitation measurements. Here, we focus on valley-floor snowfall due to its effect on ecosystems in the valley-bottom lakes and streams. Precipitation increased by 3 mm water equivalent (w.e.) a−1 from 1995 to 2009, then decreased by 1 mm w.e. a−1 through 2017. Since 2009, annual snowfall in Taylor Valley ranges from 1 to 30 mm w.e. High snowfall during the Spring near the coast is indicative of high summer snowfall at the more inland Lake Bonney station (r2 = 0.66; p < 0.05). In contrast, the average fraction of days with snow on the ground tripled at Lake Hoare after 2011, primarily during Spring and Fall. Fall snow persistence at Lake Hoare has been increasing by ~ 1 day per year since the start of the record in 2007, although Spring snow cover exhibits no trend. In agreement with previous studies, regression analysis revealed no correlation of snow cover or snowfall with sea ice extent or mean temperatures. Strong seasonality and interannual variability underscores the complexity of precipitation and snow persistence controls in Taylor Valley. In regions where snow cover contributes more to the radiation budget than the hydrologic budget, photographs are the most reliable method for monitoring precipitation. The results of this study highlight the importance of continued monitoring of precipitation throughout Taylor Valley. The establishment of coastal and inland snow cover monitoring stations would augment point observations of snow cover and add spatial complexity to our present understanding of the expected hydrologic and ecosystem response to climate change in Taylor Valley.

Madeline E. Myers et al.

 
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Madeline E. Myers et al.

Data sets

McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER: Daily measurement summaries from Lake Hoare Meteorological Station (HOEM) in Taylor Valley, Antarctica from 1987 to present P. T. Doran and A. G. Fountain https://doi.org/10.6073/pasta/be2f27d49d9e0289ffd64871a6e1f3d1

McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER: Daily measurement summaries from Lake Fryxell Meteorological Station (FRLM) in Taylor Valley, Antarctica from 1993 to present P. T. Doran and A. G. Fountain https://doi.org/10.6073/pasta/1ac8da354bff946f8cb14eec393737f0

McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER: Daily measurement summaries from Explorers Cove Meteorological Station (EXEM) in Taylor Valley, Antarctica from 1997 to present P. T. Doran and A. G. Fountain https://doi.org/10.6073/pasta/3f0e21c6961046d381e1fae6b73a19d1

Icebreaker dates and ice edge distance in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica from austral years 1956/1957 to 2014/2015 (McMurdo Predator Prey project) S. Kim, K. L. Daly, D. G. Ainley, and G. Ballard https://doi.org/10.1575/1912/bco-dmo.708221

McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER: Average glacier stake heights and snow depths in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica from 1993 to present M. N. Gooseff and A. G. Fountain https://doi.org/10.6073/pasta/0af328da4326460cc0dea1aa9cda5b5d

Madeline E. Myers et al.

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Short summary
In polar regions like the Dry Valleys of Antarctica, snowfall is expected to increase. Small amounts of snow lower radiation for melting and photosynthesis by increasing the albedo of the surrounding dark soil. Two decades of snowfall data have shown that the volume of snowfall has been declining since 2009, which contradicts the anticipated increase; however, the number of days with snow has been increasing, which will slow glacial melt and lower productivity below the snow cover.