Climate change causes glacial river in Yukon to change direction
Glacier retreated so much that its meltwater switched course, in an event not documented in modern times
By Brandie Weikle, CBC News Posted: Apr 17, 2017 11:00 AM ET Last Updated: Apr 17, 2017 2:01 PM ET
Climate change has caused the massive Kaskawulsh Glacier in the Yukon to retreat so much that its meltwater abruptly switched direction, in the first documented case of "river piracy" in modern times.
Instead of flowing into the Slims River and then north to the Bering Sea, the water has changed course and now flows south toward the Kaskawulsh River, the Gulf of Alaska and the Pacific Ocean, scientists have found.
Also known as stream capture, river piracy is a term used to describe a geologic phenomenon where a stream or river is diverted toward another body of water. It's usually caused by a dramatic tectonic event, such as a landslide or glacial dam collapse.
"This was the first event we could find where river piracy occurred right under our noses and due to contemporary climate change," said Dan Shugar, a geoscientist at the University of Washington Tacoma and lead author of a study published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience.