Generally when we say the words “river piracy,” we assume it involves actual pirates and potentially wonky sharks. But in this case, it refers to a phenomenon where one river will, over time, take another river’s water supply. Usually this happens slowly, over generations. Unless, apparently, you’re a river in the Yukon.
The Sims River no longer exists, Pop Sci reports, thanks to the Kaskawulsh river nearby. Both the Sims and the Kaskawulsh are fed by the Kaskawulsh glacier; as the glacier melts, the water goes into the river and flows into other, larger bodies of water. One small problem: the glacier has retreated enough, due to climate change, that it’s stopped feeding the Sims, stunning the geologists who were hoping to study how the Sims’ course changes over the course of year. Instead they found the river had been, in their words, “decapitated.”
The Sims River is effectively dead. For it to recover, the glacier would need to grow enough to start feeding its drainage basin again, which is pretty much impossible. The Kaskawulsh, on the other hand, is now a stronger and more dangerous body of water. The geologists studying the river note that this is an important lesson — not all of the effects of climate change are something we’ll see coming.
(Via Pop Sci)