The Canadian River is the longest tributary of the Arkansas River in the United States. It is about 906 miles (1,458 km) long, starting in Colorado and traveling through New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle, and Oklahoma. The drainage area is about 47,700 square mile. The Canadian is sometimes referred to as the South Canadian River to differentiate it from the North Canadian River that flows into it.
Humans have used science to allow us to be out of synch with nature. We heat and cool our homes, transport food from warm to snow-covered regions, travel in vehicles that protect us from rain. We have straightened out rivers and built levees hoping to contain them in channels. Winter rains are stored in reservoirs behind dams then distributed during summer. And despite all this talent for altering nature to serve our needs, human self-assurance exceeds our actual control. We do not see all the consequences of actions and we do not look far enough into the future.
Another unexpected consequence of the rapidly changing climate: a river has suddenly vanished in Canada as the water heads in the opposite direction of its usual route.
For the last 300 years, Slims River flowed out to the Bering Sea, and the smaller Kaskawulsh River flowed to the Gulf of Alaska.
What we found was the glacial lake that fed Slims River had actually changed its outlet. A 30-meter (100-foot) canyon had been carved through the terminus of the glacier. Meltwater was flowing through that canyon from one lake into another glacial lake, almost like when you see champagne poured into glasses that are stacked in a pyramid – lead author Dan Shugar of the University of Washington Tacoma said in a statement.
Rivers ordinarily take thousands of years to disappear or reverse their course. But for one immense river in Canada, it took four days. The Slims River in northern Canada abruptly disappeared over the course of days last year, thanks to a rapidly melting glacier at the river’s headwaters.
The abrupt and unexpected disappearance of the Slims river, which spanned up to 150 meters at its widest points, is the first observed case of “river piracy”, in which the flow of one river is suddenly diverted into another. or hundreds of years, the Slims carried meltwater northwards from the vast Kaskawulsh glacier in Canada’s Yukon territory into the Kluane river, then into the Yukon river towards the Bering Sea. But in spring 2016, a period of intense melting of the glacier meant the drainage gradient was tipped in favour of a second river, redirecting the meltwater to the Gulf of Alaska, thousands of miles from its original destination.
The phenomenon could have major ramifications for areas such as the Himalayas, the Andes or Alaska as global warming continues and glaciers continue to retreat. Professor Shugar told the New York Times that, as climate change causes more glaciers to melt.