Alaska: Rivers Turn Orange Seen From Space

There are dozens of rivers and streams in the interior Alaska Rust is turning orange as a result of permafrost starting to melt, according to a new study.

THE Arctic it’s the fastest-warming region on the planet, and as the frozen ground beneath the surface thaws, minerals that were once “molded” in the ground are now seeping into waterways.

Satellite images reveal more than 75 rivers, 1,000 kilometers long, painted orange. Samples collected in late 2022 showed high concentrations of iron, zinc, copper, nickel, lead and other toxic metals, raising the water’s pH from the usual 8 to 2.3.

“This is an unexpected effect of climate change that we’re seeing in some of our nation’s cleanest rivers,” said study author Brett Poulin, associate professor of environmental toxicology at the University of California, Berkeley.

The study highlights the potential degradation of drinking water and the risk to fisheries in the Arctic.

This phenomenon is seasonal

The phenomenon was first observed in 2018, when researchers observed an orange color in northern Alaska’s Brooks Range (center photo: Josh Koch/USGS), a stark contrast to the crystal clear waters observed the previous year.

During the year, the Akillik River tributary in Kobuk Valley National Park saw the complete disappearance of two native fish species: dolly varden and slimy sculpin.

“When the river turned orange, we saw a significant reduction in macroinvertebrates and biofilm on the bottom of the river. It’s essentially the base of the food web,” Poulin said of the phenomenon.

The Arctic Circle is warming four times faster than the rest of the planet. The additional heat thaws frozen soil, increases microbial activity and causes the growth of shrubs whose roots disturb the soil, exposing previously protected minerals to the air and falling into waterways.

The orange color of the waters is a seasonal phenomenon that occurs in the summer, usually in July and August, when the soil melts. Researchers from the National Park Service, US Geological Survey and the University of California now want to better understand the long-term effects of changing water chemistry in places with persistent permafrost that cover Alaska, Canada, Russia and other arctic regions. Scandinavia.

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