How does a river suddenly disappear? It gets stolen! How do you steal a river? With climate change!
River piracy and drainage basin reorganization led by climate-driven glacier retreat
“River piracy-the diversion of the headwaters of one stream into another one-can dramatically change the routing of water and sediment, with a profound effect on landscape evolution. Stream piracy has been investigated in glacial environments, but so far it has mainly been studied over Quaternary or longer timescales. Here we document how retreat of Kaskawulsh Glacier-one of Canada’s largest glaciers-abruptly and radically altered the regional drainage pattern in spring 2016.”
Retreating Yukon glacier caused a river to disappear
“The massive Kaskawulsh Glacier in northern Canada has retreated about a mile up its valley over the past century. Last spring, its retreat triggered a geologic event at relatively breakneck speed. The toe of ice that was sending meltwater toward the Slims River and then north to the Bering Sea retreated so far that the water changed course, joining the Kaskawulsh River and flowing south toward the Gulf of Alaska.”
Canada’s Glaciers Are Melting 900 Percent Faster Since 2005
“About a quarter of all Arctic land ice outside of Greenland is found in the glaciers and ice caps of the Queen Elizabeth Islands in Canada. The ice covers more than 40,000 square miles, and a new study reports that it began to melt dramatically faster in 2005 than it had in previous years. Before 2005 the glaciers were relatively stable, seeing surface melt of three gigatons every year, as ice flowed to the ocean. But between 2005 and 2015, that figure jumped by 900 percent, averaging 30 gigatons of ice loss per year.”
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This episode of Seeker was hosted by Trace Dominguez.
Written By: Lauren Ellis