As the tundra melts, the Alaska River turns orange


The Alaskan landscape is being radically transformed. As unprecedented heat melts areas of long-frozen plains, runoff is changing the composition of Arctic rivers and streams. One such waterway is Tukpahlearik Creek in northern Alaska, which recently turned a stunning shade of orange.

Like dozens of other Arctic streams, so is the Tukpahlearik discoloration The iron is poured into the water stream, as shown in the new version Satellite images From NASA. Just as iron reacts with oxygen to give rust its ocher color, it is now doing the same in Alaska’s rivers.

Scientists believe that thawing permafrost is responsible for rising iron levels, although the possible causes are disputed. One clarification is that as microbes consume plant remains liberated by melting ice, they produce iron as a byproduct. It is also possible that, for the first time in thousands of years, meltwater is interacting with minerals in the soil, leaching heavy metals such as iron.

Scientists say thawing permafrost poses a growing threat to aquatic life. In addition to seeing higher iron levels, researchers also recorded higher levels of acidity and lower oxygen levels in rivers fed by thawing permafrost. Low oxygen, in particular, poses a threat to fish and those who depend on them.

Also on Yale E360

From carbon sink to source: stark changes in Arctic lakes

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.