Colorado mountains
From Long-Term Data to Understanding: Toward a Predictive Ecology
2015 LTER ASM Estes Park, CO - August 30 - September 2, 2015

Anthropogenic sources of carbon in the McMurdo Dry Valleys

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Alia Khan
Yan Ding
Rudolf Jaffe
Diane McKnight

This study focuses on quantifying human impact in the McMurdo Dry Valleys through studying black carbon in the dissolved phase in water. Robust efforts and policies exist to minimize human impact in Antarctica, the most remote and pristine continent. Previous studies have been conducted to quantify various tracers of human impact from McMurdo Station, however, no known studies have looked at Black Carbon, soot particles, or products of in-complete combustion of fossil fuels, in the dissolved phase in the lakes of the Dry Valleys. One might expect the lakes to be completely void of black carbon; however, preliminary samples from Lake Fryxell and Lake Hoare show that some BC is present in the lakes, at approximately 4-6 mg/L, one-third of the concentration of temperate lakes. Potential local sources include field camps, relatively heavy helicopter traffic, especially compared to other regions of the Antarctic, as well as generator use. During the height of the austral summer, the edges of these perennially frozen lakes thaw, enabling wind deposition of debris and particles including black carbon, onto the surface of the water. Long range transport is also potential, though previous studies have shown that few particles have the ability to make it through the strong polar vortex, additionally the southern hemisphere has much less industrial production than the north. Therefore, our assumption is that most of the BC we find in the lakes, could be traced to human impact. 

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