Semester of Graduation

August 2019


Master of Science (MS)


Geology and Geophysics

Document Type



The role of snow on underwater photosynthetically active radiation (UW PAR) in the McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDVs) has been understudied due to lack of a detailed snowfall record. Research has shown that a relationship between snow cover and UW PAR exists, but the extent has never been evaluated in great detail. Although annual snowfall values in the MDVs are low (3 to 50 mm water equivalent annually), trends of increasing snowfall on the continent under future warming conditions could lead to an increased role for snow in regulating UW PAR (and associated primary productivity). Here, I discuss evidence from the snowfall record, surface PAR, and UW PAR, of the influence of snowfall on UW PAR in the major lakes of Taylor Valley. This study aims to quantify the spatiotemporal impact of lake ice snow packs on UW PAR in Taylor Valley from field surveys, long-term UW PAR, and meteorological data. Lake Fryxell has the strongest seasonality to precipitation, which decreases inland. On average, Lake Fryxell also has the most days with snow cover on the lake ice. Lake Hoare is experiencing an increase in Fall snow persistence since the 2007 snow year. Snow less than 0.5 mm snow water equivalent (SWE) can suppress UW PAR by 40%. The calendar day that snow falls often determines whether phototrophs will switch from photosynthesis to respiration, which suggests the importance to seasonality in determining the impact of snow on photoautotrophs and lake-wide carbon budget.

Committee Chair

Doran, Peter