Causes and Characteristics of Electrical Resistivity Variability in Shallow (<4 m) Soils in Taylor Valley, East Antarctica

W. S. Gutterman*, P. T. Doran*, R. A. Virginia, J. E. Barrett, K. F. Myers, S. M. Tulaczyk, N. T. Foley, J. A. Mikucki, H. A. Dugan, D. J. Grombacher, T. S. Bording, E. Auken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Airborne electromagnetic surveys collected in December 2011 and November 2018 and three soil sampling transects were used to analyze the spatial heterogeneity of shallow (<4 m) soil properties in lower Taylor Valley (TV), East Antarctica. Soil resistivities from 2011 to 2018 ranged from ∼33 Ωm to ∼3,500 Ωm with 200 Ωm assigned as an upper boundary for brine-saturated sediments. Elevations below ∼50 m above sea level (masl) typically exhibit the lowest resistivities with resistivity increasing at high elevations on steeper slopes. Soil water content was empirically estimated from electrical resistivities using Archie's Law and range from ∼<1% to ∼68% by volume. An increase in silt- and clay-sized particles at low elevations increases soil porosity but decreases hydraulic conductivity, promoting greater residence times of soil water at low elevations near Lake Fryxell. Soil resistivity variability between 2011 and 2018 shows soils at different stages of soil freeze-thaw cycles, which are caused predominantly by solar warming of soils as opposed to air temperature. This study furthers the understanding of the hydrogeologic structure of the shallow subsurface in TV and identifies locations of soils that are potentially prone to greater rates of thaw and resulting ecosystem homogenization of soil properties from projected increases in hydrological connectivity across the region over the coming decades.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022JF006696
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • active layer
  • airborne electromagnetic surveys
  • McMurdo dry valleys
  • permafrost dynamics


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