The retreat of Canada's largest glaciers has changed the flow of the northern river overnight in a case of what is being called climate change river piracy.
Discovery of the Slims River diversion from the Bering Sea into another watershed that empties into the Pacific Ocean has been documented.
Slims riverbed dried up in a short span of 4 days. The habitat underwent a transformation and the chemistry and biology of water changed in a dramatic way.
Canadian geomorphologists in Canada's northern Yukon Territory came to study river currents, only to find the river missing.
The mysterious disappearance was traced to Slim River's headwaters where glacial barriers that routed the flow northward into the Bering Sea had been breached in spring.
This radically altered the drainage from the Kaskawulsh Glacier spring melt, as per the study sent the river in the opposite direction into the Pacific Ocean, 1,300 km from where the river's mouth used to be.
The researchers used computer models to display a fast glacier melt and the subsequent river diversion on account of global climate change and not natural temperature fluctuations over the centuries.
These changes can have profound downstream impacts on ecosystems and communities relying on the discharge.
Kluane Lake fed by the Slims River dropped a full meter below the lowest recorded level for the year. Researchers also indicated the discovery highlights that while people view climate change as a gradual process, the effects may not be so.