New insights into the origin and evolution of Lake Vida, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica - A noble gas study in ice and brines

Document Type


Publication Date



Unlike other lakes in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, Lake Vida has a thick (~ 19 m) ice cover sealing a liquid brine body of unusually high salinity (~ 245 g/L) from the atmosphere. To constrain the conditions under which the atypical Lake Vida ice cover formed and evolved, 19 ice samples were collected down to a depth of ~ 14 m, together with three brine samples trapped in the ice at ~ 16 m for analysis of helium, neon, argon, krypton, and xenon concentrations. The broad pattern of noble gas concentrations for Lake Vida samples is fundamentally different from that of air saturated water (ASW) at 0 °C and an elevation of 340 m for salinities of 0 (ice) and 245 g/L (brine). Overall, ice samples are enriched in He and depleted in Ne with saturation relative to ASW averages of 1.38 and 0.82, respectively, and strongly depleted in Ar, Kr, and Xe with relative saturations of 0.10, 0.06, and 0.05, respectively. By contrast, brine samples are generally depleted in He and Ne (relative saturation averages of 0.33 and 0.27, respectively) but enriched in Ar, Kr, and Xe, with relative saturation averages of 1.45, 3.15, and 8.86, respectively. A three-phase freezing partitioning model generating brine, ice and bubble concentrations for all stable noble gases was tested and compared with our data. Measured brine values are best reproduced for a salinity value of 175 g/L, a pressure of 1.1 atm, and a bubble volume of 20 cm3 kg-1. Sensitivity tests for ice + bubble samples show an ideal fit for bubble volumes of ~ 1-2 cm3 kg-1. Our results show that the conditions under which ice and brine formed and evolved at Lake Vida are significantly different from other ice-covered lakes in the area. Our brine data suggest that Lake Vida may be transitioning from a wet to a dry-based lake, while the ice + bubble data suggest at least partial re-equilibration of residual liquid with the atmosphere as ice forms at the top of Lake Vida ice cover. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Earth and Planetary Science Letters

First Page


Last Page


This document is currently not available here.