Frequency, magnitude, and characteristics of aeolian sediment transport: McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica



[1] Due, in part, to the challenging environment of Earth's high-latitude regions, available information on cold climate effects on aeolian processes in these areas remains limited. Data from these areas, however, provide insight into the physics of sediment transport by wind and the controls on erosive winds in proximity to ice caps and topographic influences. This study presents a 2 year record of meteorological, saltation activity, horizontal saltation flux, and particle size distribution data from four sites in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica, 2008 to 2010. Saltation measurements revealed daily and seasonal patterns with spring and summer sediment transport events occurring between 09:00 and 24:00 hours due to thermally generated winds. Fall and winter events occur at any time of day with the strongest associated with foehn winds. Threshold wind speed at 4.2 m in all seasons for all locations was ≈10 m s−1. Saltation occurred in the temperature range −40°C to +5°C. Westerly winds in the fall/winter and easterly winds in spring/summer are associated with the majority of transport events. The sand in transport is mainly 250 to 500 µm in diameter and poorly sorted. The integrated saltation flux varies over three orders of magnitude among the sites, with the lowest mean flux recorded in the Taylor Valley (2.9 kg m−1 day−1) and the highest in the eastern Victoria Valley (2271 kg m−1 day−1) for 24 hours of continuous saltation. The percentage of time saltation active at these locations annually is ≈2%, ≈4%, and ≈13%, respectively, for the Victoria, Taylor, and Wright Valleys.