Monthly Archives: December 2012

Miers Valley

Splendid day today. First of all a new team member arrived today. Jon Denner, a  US Geologic Survey (USGS) hydrologist from Vermont, will be helping us throughout the season. Jon has loads of experience with the USGS and will certainly be a brilliant contribution to the already fantastic Stream-Team. Eventually, I will write a post to introduce you to the rest of the team. promise.

Anyhow, at 0900 a B212 helicopter picked us up from F6 camp to transport us for a day of field work in Miers Valley. Miers Valley is located in southeastern portion of the greater Dry Valleys region. The helo ride from F6 to Miers is approximately 30 minutes. This ride provided some smashing views of the Royal Society Range. You can see the Royal Society Range from McMurdo, but nothing compares to flying along these massive peaks, which explode out of glacial ice into the clouds.

Royal Society Range. photo credit: Tyler Kohler

Royal Society Range. photo credit: Tyler Kohler

There are three streams in the Miers Valley. Adams Stream (awesome name, eh? … more like Adam’s stream) flows from the Adams glacier, which enters the valley from the southwest. Miers Stream flows from the Miers glacier, which enters the valley from the northwest. Adams and Miers both flow into Miers Lake. Miers Lake then has an outlet stream, which doesn’t have a name that I know of. We were happy to see streamflow on Adams. We spent several hours sampling water chemistry, measuring discharge, surveying, and fixing data logger instrumentation. Tyler and I also hiked over to Miers stream, only about 15 minutes on foot from where the helo landed. Unfortunately Miers was not flowing enough to measure discharge, but we did collect water chemistry samples.

Looking up the Miers Valley. Adams Glacier seem far left and Miers Glacier seen far right. Photo taken on ice-covered lake outlet stream

Looking up the Miers Valley. Adams Glacier seem far left and Miers Glacier seen far right. Photo taken on ice-covered lake outlet stream. B212 holdin’ it down. photo credit: Tyler Kohler

I was amazed by how this valley was the perfect little Antarctic watershed. Two glaciers, two lake-inlet streams, and a lake-outlet stream. It is a simple example of how water is stored and transported in the Dry Valleys. On a sunny day, like today, sufficient solar radiation and air temperatures melt the face and surface of glaciers, generating enough water for streamflow. The streams then feed into the lake. A beautiful example of two large storages of water (glaciers and lakes) becoming connected via a more transient storage (streams!). Ahhh hydrology.

I am quite curious about the mass balance of the lake. By “mass balance” I basically mean water accounting. If the lake is a bank account, it has an income and expenses. The income is incoming streamflow, and the expenses are losses of water. The lake can lose water through the outflow stream or via sublimation and evaporation. Because mass can neither be created or destroyed (recall 4th grade science), mass balance studies allow us to understand simple and complex processes occurring in earth systems.

The Stream-Team will return to this site in the coming weeks. We plan to construct and instrument a gage box to provide continuous discharge records on the Miers Lake outlet.

After the helo ride home, arriving at 1630, I enjoyed the contents of a goodie-box sent from some friends at home! Thankya! If you’ve never had a Reed’s Ginger Chew, I highly recommend them.