Section 20
Chapter 19,470

Moisture content in soils of the McMurdo Sound and dry valley region of Antarctica

Campbell, I.B.; Claridge, G.G.C.; Balks, M.R.; Campbell, D.I.

Pages 61-76 1997


Accession: 019469815

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In the cold desert environment soil water attributes are critical to increasing the understanding of the functions and processes in Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems. This paper reports the results of observations and measurements of soil moisture contents made since 1990 in the McMurdo dry valleys of Antarctica. Moisture content in the active layer of well-drained soils in coastal McMurdo regions averages around 5% and diminishes to around 1% or less inland in soils on dry valley floors and sides. Microtopography, site aspect, albedo and windiness cause moisture content variations. Soil moisture varies appreciably regionally and over small distances. Soils of inland regions at higher altitudes have lower moisture contents in both the soil and the underlying ice-cement. Ice-cement depth does not correspond to the 0 degrees C isotherm and soils are commonly dry frozen between the surface of the permafrost and the underlying ice cement.

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