Almost Alien: Antarctic Subglacial Lakes are Cold, Dark and Full of Secrets
Gathering data on the biogeochemistry of subglacial lakes is an undertaking of Antarctic proportions. Trista Vick-Majors (Bio Sci) is part of a team that gathered samples from the Whillans Subglacial Lake in West Antarctica and is lead author on a paper about the lake, recently published in Global Biogeochemical Cycles.
Using mass balance calculations, the team’s research shows that a pool of dissolved organic carbon in the Whillans Subglacial Lake can be produced in 4.8 to 11.9 years. As the lake fills and drains, which takes about the same amount of time, all those nutrients slip and slide their way to the ice-covered coast of the Southern Ocean. Based on the team’s calculations, the subglacial lakes in the region provide 5,400% more organic carbon than what microbial life in the ice-covered ocean downstream needs to survive.
To get the data, Vick-Majors and the rest of the team first have to drill through 800 meters of ice. Find out how they did it on mtu.edu/news and read the full story.