UW professor leads study tracking climate change rerouting river’s course

SEATTLE — A study published Monday by University of Washington – Tacoma professor Dan Shugar focuses on what seems to be the first modern case of river piracy. River piracy is when the water from one river is “stolen” by another.

Scientists blame global warming after the melt from a glacier in the Yukon drastically switched directions last May.

Water used to flow from the glacier into the Slims River, eventually going into the Bering Sea. Now, water flows from the glacier south and into the Pacific Ocean. Prior to 2016, some water from the glacier was already going south… but now, nearly all the water from the glacier flows in that direction.

Researchers say the Slims River used to be ten feet deep and now it hardly gets your feet wet.  Shugar said the amazing part is how quick the river piracy occurred.

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Shugar said climate change will bring impacts that we may not be prepared for and some of those impacts may occur very rapidly.

You can view more photos of the changes here.