+

Kluane Lake in Canada is supposed to look like this:

[rebelmouse-image 19527245 dam="1" original_size="750x450" caption="Image via Mandruss/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]Image via Mandruss/Wikimedia Commons.

The lake is one of Yukon's largest, home to a handful of small communities, and its waters eventually feed into the mighty Yukon River.


So how the heck did it end up looking like this virtually overnight?

Image via Jim Best/University of Illinois.

It's supposed to be pristine and blue, not brown and full of weird, muddy goosebumps and dry, dusty mudflats.

This is a shocking case of what scientists call "river piracy." Something stole Kluane Lake's river.

The culprit wasn't a foul-mouthed, foul-smelling 17th-century sailor, though. The real culprit was — and is — much more creeping and insidious.

Kluane Lake used to get a big chunk of its water from the Slims River, which in turn was fed by the Kaskawulsh glacier. For years, the Slims River had been an ice-cold torrent of water up to 10 feet deep and too strong to wade through in some areas.

Over the course of four days in May 2016, though, river gauge data shows that all of that water just ... disappeared.

An aerial view of water being diverted from the Slims River. Image via Dan Shugar/University of Washington Tacoma.

Dan Shugar and Jim Best, scientists from the University of Washington and University of Illinois, went up to investigate in person. When they got there, they found a bare trickle of water where the river should have been.

"We were really surprised when we got there and there was basically no water in the river," Shugar said in an Associated Press report. "We could walk across it and we wouldn't get our shirts wet.”

They knew if something was stopping water from getting to the river, it must have happened uphill, likely at the mighty Kaskawulsh glacier that feeds the river.

When the scientists went to investigate, they found a massive 100-foot-tall ice canyon — a giant hole basically — inside the glacier's edge.

The ice-walled canyon. Image via Jim Best/University of Illinois.

It was the evidence they needed to identify the primary suspect behind the river's sudden vanishing act: climate change.

As the planet has gotten warmer, the Kaskawulsh glacier has been retreating and breaking up. For a long time, its meltwater had been going toward the Slims River.

When the river disappeared in May 2016, it was the result of the glacier having retreated enough that an ice wall collapsed, forming a canyon and diverting the meltwater down a different side of the mountain, away from the Slims River. Instead, the glacier's water rushed into the Alsek River, a phenomenon scientists call river piracy.

Satellite images taken one year apart show how much the river has fallen. Image via the European Space Agency.

River piracy hasn't been documented in modern times and certainly never this quickly. Shugar's team is more than 99% sure this wouldn't have happened without climate change.

Ever since, the Slims River has been a mere trickle and Kluane Lake has dropped more than 5 feet below average.

Shugar at Kluane Lake. Image via Jim Best/University of Illinois.

Kluane Lake is more than 45 miles long, so this isn’t a small amount of water we're talking about. The two communities on the lake will likely have to learn to deal with the water shortage because it’s virtually impossible that things will go back to the way they were.

Being witness to a case of river piracy is pretty incredible, but the speed at which it happened is a stark reminder that the effects of climate change can happen both slowly and all at once.

The Yukon is a pretty remote and sparsely populated area, but if a river disappeared in, say, the Andes or the Himalayas, it could affect the water supplies of millions of people, giving them little time to adapt to the change.

There are still plenty of things we can do to mollify the effects of climate change, but the first thing is to take it — and its causes — seriously and make sure the people in charge take it seriously too. Because if we don't, who knows where or when river piracy will strike again.

The team's findings were published in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience.

Photo: Jason DeCrow for United Nations Foundation

Honorees, speakers and guests on stage at We the Peoples

True

Some people say that while change is inevitable, progress is a choice. In other words, it’s a purposeful act—like when American media mogul and philanthropist Ted Turner established the United Nations Foundation 25 years ago.

Keep ReadingShow less

Chris Hemsworth and daughter.

This article originally appeared on 08.27.18


In addition to being the star of Marvel franchise "Thor," actor Chris Hemsworth is also a father-of-three? And it turns out, he's pretty much the coolest dad ever.

In a clip from a 2015 interview on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," Hemsworth shared an interesting conversation he had with his 4-year-old daughter India.

Keep ReadingShow less
True

Innovation is awesome, right? I mean, it gave us the internet!

However, there is always a price to pay for modernization, and in this case, it’s in the form of digital eye strain, a group of vision problems that can pop up after as little as two hours of looking at a screen. Some of the symptoms are tired and/or dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain1. Ouch!

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

A 92-year-old World War II fighter pilot flies her plane for the first time in 70 years.

"It's the closest thing to having wings of your own and flying that I've known."

Photo pulled from BBC YouTube video

World War II vet flys again.

This article originally appeared on 05.19.15


More than 70 years after the war, a 92-year-old World War II veteran took to the sky once again.

It's been decades since her last flight, but Joy Lofthouse, a 92-year-old Air Transport Auxiliary veteran, was given the chance to board a Spitfire airplane for one more trip.


Keep ReadingShow less

This article originally appeared on 08.20.21


Sometimes you see something so mind-boggling you have to take a minute to digest what just happened in your brain. Be prepared to take that moment while watching these videos.

Real estate investor and TikTok user Tom Cruz shared two videos explaining the spreadsheets he and his friends use to plan vacations and it's...well...something. Watch the first one:

So "Broke Bobby" makes $125,000 a year. There's that.

How about the fact that his guy has more than zero friends who budget $80,000 for a 3-day getaway? Y'all. I wouldn't know how to spend $80,000 in three days if you paid me to. Especially if we're talking about a trip with friends where we're all splitting the cost. Like what does this even look like? Are they flying in private jets that burn dollar bills as fuel? Are they bathing in hot tubs full of cocaine? I genuinely don't get it.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Someone asked strangers online to share life's essential lessons. Here are the 17 best.

There's a bit of advice here for everyone—from financial wisdom to mental health tips.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Failure is a great teacher.

It’s true that life never gets easier, and we only get continuously better at our lives. Childhood’s lessons are simple—this is how you color in the lines, 2 + 2 = 4, brush your teeth twice a day, etc. As we get older, lessons keep coming, and though they might still remain simple in their message, truly understanding them can be difficult. Often we learn the hard way.

The good news is, the “hard way” is indeed a great teacher. Learning the hard way often involves struggle, mistakes and failure. While these feelings are undeniably uncomfortable, being patient and persistent enough to move through them often leaves us not only wiser in having gained the lesson, but more confident, assured and emotionally resilient. If that’s not growth, I don’t know what is.

Keep ReadingShow less