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Nat Commun. 2015 Apr 28;6:6831. doi: 10.1038/ncomms7831.

Deep groundwater and potential subsurface habitats beneath an Antarctic dry valley.

Author information

1
Department of Microbiology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Tennessee 37996, USA.
2
Department of Geosciences, Aarhus University, Aarhus 8000, Denmark.
3
Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Santa Cruz, California 95064, USA.
4
Environmental Studies Program, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire 03755, USA.
5
Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06, CNRS, EPHE, UMR 7619 Metis, 4 place Jussieu, Paris 75252, France.
6
Department of Geology and Geophysics, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70803, USA.
7
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60607, USA.

Abstract

The occurrence of groundwater in Antarctica, particularly in the ice-free regions and along the coastal margins is poorly understood. Here we use an airborne transient electromagnetic (AEM) sensor to produce extensive imagery of resistivity beneath Taylor Valley. Regional-scale zones of low subsurface resistivity were detected that are inconsistent with the high resistivity of glacier ice or dry permafrost in this region. We interpret these results as an indication that liquid, with sufficiently high solute content, exists at temperatures well below freezing and considered within the range suitable for microbial life. These inferred brines are widespread within permafrost and extend below glaciers and lakes. One system emanates from below Taylor Glacier into Lake Bonney and a second system connects the ocean with the eastern 18 km of the valley. A connection between these two basins was not detected to the depth limitation of the AEM survey (∼350 m).

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