Diel variations in chemical and isotopic compositions of a stream on King George Island, Antarctica: Implications for hydrologic pathways of meltwater

Hyejung Jung, Sung Wook Jeen, Hyoungseok Lee, Jeonghoon Lee

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Abstract

Antarctica is highly susceptible to climate and environmental change. In particular, climate change can lead to the warming of permafrost and the development of active layers in permafrost areas, resulting in variations in hydrological characteristics. This study investigated the hydrological process associated with a stream in a snow-dominated headwater catchment on King George Island, maritime Antarctica, during austral summer using the chemical and isotopic compositions. During the cold period, as the snowmelt rate decreased, the amount of new water also decreased. Hence, the electrical conductivity (EC) increased because the contribution of supra-permafrost groundwater (“old” water), which occurs in the active layer, increased more during the cold period than during the warm period. Moreover, diel variations in the stable isotopic compositions (δ18O and δD) of snowmelt (“new” water) were clearly observed in the stream water, indicating that runoff was the dominant flow path of snowmelt during the cold period. In contrast, during the warm period, the amount of snowmelt increased and the EC value decreased as a result of the dilution effect. In addition, compared with the cold period, diel variations in the isotopic compositions of the stream water were attenuated during the warm period. This attenuation effect was not due to the increased contribution of old water; instead, it was due to the contribution of new water with a low-amplitude signal in the diel variations of the isotopic compositions. Thus, the observed diel variations in the isotopic compositions of the stream water during cold and warm periods suggest that this catchment is dominated by new water. These findings are helpful for improving our understanding of climate-related changes in the hydrological pathways and water-related ecosystems of polar catchments.

Original languageEnglish
Article number153784
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume825
DOIs
StatePublished - 15 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was financially supported by research grants ( PE21130 ) from the Korea Polar Research Institute . This work was also partially supported by three other research grants: one from the Korea Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries ( KIMST20190361 ), another from the National Research Council of Science and Technology (NST) grant of the Korean government (MSIP) ( CAP-17-05-KIGAM ) and the other from the Basic Science Research Program through the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) funded by the Ministry of Education ( 2021R1A6A3A13043968 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier B.V.

Keywords

  • Active layer
  • Antarctica
  • Diel variation
  • Hydrological environment
  • Permafrost hydrology
  • Stable water isotopes

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