In the summer of 2016, the global warming-induced retreat of Kaskawulsh Glacier — one of the largest glaciers in Canada — altered the flow of its meltwater so substantially that it killed off one river and shunted its waters over to another, an abrupt geological act known as river piracy.
A stream flows through the toe of Kaskawulsh Glacier in Kluane National Park, Yukon. In 2016, this channel allowed the glacier's meltwater to drain in a different direction than normal, resulting in the Slims River water being rerouted to a different river system.
Click image to enlarge. Credit: Dan Shugar
A team of researchers were serendipitously on hand to document the upheaval, which likely marks a permanent change and could have substantial consequences for the ecology and surroundings of both waterways.
While river piracy, or stream capture, is known to have happened in the past because of swings in Earth’s climate, most of those examples were from thousands of years ago. This instance is the first