Controls on stream and hyporheic temperatures, Taylor Valley, Antarctica and large-scale climate influences on interannual flow variation in the Onyx River, Antarctica

TitleControls on stream and hyporheic temperatures, Taylor Valley, Antarctica and large-scale climate influences on interannual flow variation in the Onyx River, Antarctica
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsCozzetto, K, McKnight, DM
Academic DepartmentDepartment of Civil Engineering
Number of Pages317
Date Published2009
UniversityUniversity of Colorado
CityBoulder, CO
Thesis Typedoctoral
KeywordsAntarctica, earth sciences, hydroclimatology, hyporheic flow paths, hyporheic zone, stream temperature

The McMurdo Dry Valleys comprise the largest ice-free polar desert on the continent of Antarctica. My Ph.D. research investigated summertime glacial meltwater streams flowing through this region. This work is presented in Chapters 2 through 6 of my thesis. Chapters 2-5 present the work I have done related to hyporheic processes while Chapter 6 focuses on the hydroclimatological investigations I have carried out.More specifically, Chapter 2 addresses the question: what are the dominant processes controlling dry valley stream temperatures? In particular, this investigation quantified the role of hyporheic exchange. The study found that in the Dry Valleys, exchange acted to decrease stream temperatures, accounting for 6–21% of cooling.Chapter 3 discusses a follow up tracer study to investigate whether the comparatively large daily changes in dry valley stream temperatures (6-9°C) affect hyporheic processes, for instance through viscosity effects. Results showed that the hyporheic zone volume and exchange coefficient were lower during the warmer, afternoon stream/streambed temperature regime than during the cooler, morning one. A temperature-induced feedback mechanism that increases subsurface flow path preferentiality is proposed as a possible explanation for the reduction in hyporheic volume under warmer conditions. The tracer results also suggested a “Swiss Cheese” type conceptual model of the hyporheic zone in which flow takes place along paths weaving their way through isolated areas.Chapter 4 presents work done to elucidate individual hyporheic flow path lengths and residence times. A streambed injection revealed some long (over 100 m) paths that were also fast, having subsurface travel times on par with the surface water. Hyporheic pipeflow is proposed as an explanation.In Chapter 5 research is presented showing that nitrate and phosphate concentrations at specific locations in the hyporheic zone increase with the decreasing connectivity of that location to the stream.Finally, Chapter 6 describes the large-scale climate conditions that prevailed during December and January during the highest and lowest flow summers of the Onyx River record, the longest flow record for Antarctica. Climate variables and regions in the Southern Hemisphere that had a statistically significant linear correlation to Onyx River flows were also identified. The highest flow summer on record, 2001-2, was found to have some unusual climate features when compared to the other high flow summers. It stands out as having an anomalous wind pattern that would have increased katabatic winds in the valleys, raising air temperatures and possibly depositing sediment on the glaciers, decreasing their albedo. It is also characterized by anomalously high incoming shortwave radiation. We postulate that those high levels may have been due in part to the unusually low concentrations of radiation absorbing stratospheric ozone prevalent over the valleys that particular summer.