Climate change in Alaska is releasing ‘rust’ rivers

In recent years, the typical blue and blue or even purple colors of aquatic tundra ecosystems in Alaska have turned into an unexpected orange color.

This phenomenon was first widely observed by scientists in 2018, and satellite images date back to 2008 In Alaska, some rivers began to change and take on a rust color.

“The more we flew over the area, the more orange rivers and streams we saw,” said John O’Donnell of the National Forest Service, who studied the water samples.

In a study published this week in the journal Communications: Earth & Environment, O’Donnell and a team of scientists argued that they identified the cause of this color change while attributing it to climate change.

As the Arctic Circle warms, the permafrost is melting. When this happens, acids and metals, including zinc, nickel, copper, cadmium, iron and aluminum, are released from the soil and react with water and oxygen. This process causes oxidation of metals and especially iron; gives this to the rivers muddy orange-brown rust color.

Along 965 km of waterways in the Brooks Range in northern Alaska, researchers have identified 75 rivers and streams that have turned orange. Many of them are so painted that they have a new rust color seen from space.

“We’re seeing the same phenomenon in water chemistry in Alaska, but away from the mines,” said study leader Brett Pullin, a geochemist at the University of California, who teaches in the Colorado Rockies, where waters near abandoned mines are discolored. “.

Impact of the phenomenon on Alaska and the Arctic Circle

How these changes might affect fisheries and wildlife is another area of ​​research the team of scientists wants to address. It was caused by the increase of metals in the rivers worries scientists According to CBS News, because they believe it can have the best effect on the taste of the water.

“This is an area that is warming at least two to three times faster than the rest of the planet,” said Scott Zolkos, a scientist at the Woodwell Center for Climate Research. “We can expect these kinds of effects to continue.”

In many Alaskan rivers, due to, among other things, rising temperatures, a significant decrease in the flow of salmon is noted It directly impacts Alaska Native communities.

Melting ice across the Arctic Circle has been linked to the release of a number of substances, including some long-frozen viruses. This melting has destabilized the soil in some areas, creating housing crises in the tundra as ground displacement affects building infrastructure

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