A high resolution record of water column temperatures was measured in a coastal meltwater pond on the McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica. The maximum temperature gradient measured through the water column was 35°C, with an annual temperature range of 52.1°C within the pond. For most of the year the pond shows reverse temperature stratification with the lowest temperatures measured at the surface of the pond, with the exception of brief periods of normal stratification over winter caused by regional warming events. During freezing, the freezing front propagated downwards from the pond surface, excluding major ions and releasing large amounts of latent heat, both of which had a dramatic effect on the thermal and compositional evolution of the pond. Thawing is dominated by changes in surface air temperatures and the differential absorption of solar radiation. A new conceptual model of the physical freeze-thaw process has been developed that explains the presence of an ‘ice plug’ during melting, which reduces wind-induced mixing, forms a physical barrier to chemical processes, and encourages thermal and chemical stratification. It may also explain the persistence of anoxic and hydrogen sulphide bearing basal brines in summer stratified ponds that are otherwise fully oxidized.
(Received June 17 2008)
(Accepted November 21 2008)