Timing and duration of ephemeral Antarctic water tracks and wetlands using high temporal–resolution satellite imagery, high spatial–resolution satellite imagery, and ground-based sensors in the McMurdo Dry Valleys



Antarctic water tracks and ephemeral wetlands are a primary location for biogeochemical soil processes driving cold desert soil formation. Though the spatial extent of water tracks and wetted soils has been mapped in the McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV) on the basis of mapping darkened pixels in high-resolution commercial satellite imagery, the timescale over which water tracks and wetlands form and the duration of these biogeochemically active environments remain unknown. Here, we determine the start date and end dates and the duration of wetted soils at ten sites located across the MDV using a combination of in situ soil sensors and two complementary remote imaging platforms (Planet and WorldView) to understand the hydroclimatic processes that drive water track and wetland formation. Our remote sensing employs a terrain correction workflow that removes the contribution of differential direct illumination and small-scale shadowing on pixel brightness, reducing false positives (soils identified as wetted when in fact they are shadowed or darkened as a consequence of high phase angle). Our findings extend the water track and wetland hydroperiod by over a month, showing darkening occurring from November to March, suggesting hydrological contributions from ground ice thaw, snowmelt, and salt deliquescence and soil brine growth.
Date made available2022
PublisherTaylor & Francis

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