Scientists watched as the melting pattern of one of Canada’s largest glaciers reduced the river Slims from a 150 meter wide stretch of water to a mere trickle, in what they claim is highly likely the effect of global warming on the environment.
The abrupt change is believed to have been the first scientifically observed example of river piracy – a phenomenon where the water flow from one river is dramatically shifted to another.
James Best, a geologist at the University of Illinois, said: “We went to the area intending to continue our measurements in the Slims river, but found the riverbed more or less dry.
The water from the Slims was redirected into the Alsek river (pictured)
“The delta top that we’d been sailing over in a small boat was now a dust storm.
“In terms of landscape change it was incredibly dramatic.”
Water which once flowed into the Slims has now been diverted into the Alsek river, which flows through Alaska and into the Pacific ocean.
And experts believe there is just a 0.5 per cent chance the huge ecological event occurred due to natural causes.
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Luna Park and Sydney Harbour Bridge
The abrupt change is believed to have been the first scientifically observed example of river piracy
Mr Best added: “So it’s 99.5 per cent that it occurred due to warming over the industrial era.”
It follows previous research from the 19th Century which claimed river piracy was the result of tectonic plates and geographic erosions taking place millions of years ago.
Dan Shugar, a geoscientist at the University of Washington Tacoma, added: “The water was somewhat treacherous to approach, because you’re walking on these old river sediments that were really goopy and would suck you in.
The dramatic change was caused by the melt of the Kaskawulsh Glacier
Experts have claimed there is a 99.5 per cent change the change was caused by humans
“And day by day we could see the water level dropping.
“But nobody to our knowledge has documented it happening in our lifetimes.
“People had looked at the geological record, thousands or millions of years ago, not the 21st century, where it’s happening under our noses."