How the world's saltiest pond gets its salt

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 08, 2013 10:50 hrs

Washington, Feb 8 (IANS) The Don Juan Pond in Antarctica's frigid McMurdo Dry Valley is the world's saltiest and unlikeliest water body on the planet.

A research team led by Brown University geologists has discovered how the Don Juan Pond gets the salty water it needs to exist and keep it from freezing.

Using time lapse photography and other data, researchers show that water sucked out of the atmosphere by parched, salty soil is the source of the saltwater brine that keeps the pond from freezing, according to the journal Scientific Reports.

"Combine that with some fresh water flowing in from melting snow, and you have a pond able to remain fluid in one of the coldest and driest places on earth," according to a Brown statement.

Due to the similarities between the dry valleys and the frozen desert of Mars, the findings could have important implications for water flow on the Red Planet both in the past and maybe in the present.

The study, by James Dickson and James Head from Brown, Joseph Levy from Oregon State and David Marchant from Boston University is published in Nature Publishing Group's open access journal.

"It was a simple idea," said Dickson, who co-authored the study with Head, both from Brown University.

"Let us take 16,000 pictures of this pond over the course of two months and then see which way the water's flowing. So we took the pictures, correlated them to the other measurements we were taking, and the story told itself," Dickson said.

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