04 Jul 2022
04 Jul 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Brief communication: The hidden labyrinth: Deep groundwater in Wright Valley, Antarctica

Hilary A. Dugan1, Peter T. Doran2, Denys Grombacher3, Esben Auken3, Thue Bording3, Nikolaj Foged3, Neil Foley4, Jill Mikucki5, Ross A. Virginia6, and Slawek Tulaczyk4 Hilary A. Dugan et al.
  • 1Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA
  • 2Department of Geology and Geophysics, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA, USA
  • 3Department of Geoscience, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark
  • 4Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, USA
  • 5Department of Microbiology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA
  • 6Department of Environmental Studies, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA

Abstract. Since the 1960s, a deep groundwater system in Wright Valley, Antarctica, has been the hypothesized source of brines to hypersaline Don Juan Pond and Lake Vanda, both of which are rich in calcium and chloride. Modeling studies do not support other possible mechanisms, such as evaporative processes, that could have led to the current suite of ions present in both waterbodies. In 2011 and 2018, an airborne electromagnetic survey was flown over the Wright valley to map subsurface resistivity (down to 600 m) in exploration of liquid water. The surveys revealed widespread unfrozen brine in the subsurface near Lake Vanda, Don Juan Pond, and in the North Fork of Wright Valley. While our geophysical survey can neither confirm nor deny deep groundwater connectivity between Lake Vanda and Don Juan Pond, it does point to the potential for deep valley-wide brine conduits.

Hilary A. Dugan et al.

Status: open (until 29 Aug 2022)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2022-91', Joseph Levy, 18 Jul 2022 reply
    • RC3: 'Reply on RC1', Jonathan Toner, 29 Jul 2022 reply
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2022-91', Jonathan Toner, 28 Jul 2022 reply

Hilary A. Dugan et al.

Hilary A. Dugan et al.


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Short summary
In the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, a deep groundwater system has been hypothesized to connect Don Juan Pond and Lake Vanda, both surface waterbodies that contain very high concentrations of salt. This is unusual, since permafrost in polar landscapes is thought to prevent subsurface hydrologic connectivity. We show results from an airborne geophysical survey that reveals widespread unfrozen brine in Wright Valley, and points to the potential for deep valley-wide brine conduits.