Before everything else in recorded history, the phenomenon of river piracy is the reaction of climatic change, with a river in Canada has completely changed its route and being absorbed by another river. A River in Canada’s Yukon territory turned its place from flowing out into the Bering Sea to draining into the Pacific Ocean.
While river shifts are not unheard of in the Earth’s history, such reroutings are never visible on such a small scale, and usually, take hundreds and even thousands of years.
“Geologists have seen river piracy, but nobody to our knowledge has documented it happening in our lifetimes,” says geoscientist Dan Shugar from the University of Washington Tacoma.
“People had looked at the geological record – thousands or millions of years ago – not the 21st century, where it’s happening under our noses.”
The freakish event is evident at the Kaskawulsh glacier in Canada that has been rapidly melting. The influx of the melted water has choked the Slims River, meaning the downstream Kluane Lake of water isn’t getting the usual supply. The meltwater has shifted to the Alsek River emptying into the Pacific Ocean south of Alaska, which means that the ocean will see an unprecedented influx of freshwater.
This change was first noticed in 2016 when the melting water caused an ice dam to burst, depriving Slims River of its glacial water source. Now the same event has caused the Kluane Lake level to drop rapidly putting immense stress on the environment.
“The event is a bit idiosyncratic, given the peculiar geographic situation in which it happened,” says one of the team, John Clague from Canada’s Simon Fraser University, “but in a broader sense it highlights the huge changes that glaciers are undergoing around the world due to climate change.”
Geoscientist named Rachel M. Headley from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside told The New York Times.
“While one remote glacial river changing its course in the Yukon might not seem like a particularly big deal, glacier melt is a source of water for many people. [A]nd the sediments and nutrients that glacier rivers carry can influence onshore and offshore ecological environments, as well as agriculture.”
Scientists claim that human activities certainly drive this change after calculating the tiny chance of the Kaskawulsh glacier returning to its original state. They also think that changes to the Slims River are permanent.
The researchers have published their findings in the journal Nature Geoscience.