Scientists 'Alarmed' As Alaska's Crystal Clear Waters Turn Orange

Alaska's once crystal-clear rivers and streams are turning bright orange. The "alarming change", according to scientists, was noted in a new study published by a team of researchers. The research states how Alaska's melting permafrost has transformed the state's rivers into orange, acidified 'dead zones'. Researchers documented and sampled some impaired waters, identifying 75 locations across a Texas-sized area of northern Alaska’s Brooks Range. The degraded rivers and streams could have significant implications for drinking water and fisheries in Arctic watersheds as the climate changes, the researchers noted. One hypothesis is that thawing permafrost, essentially frozen ground, releases minerals that, when exposed to water and oxygen, result in the release of acid and metals. The orange river effect, which leaves a smell that has been compared to rotting vegetables, can suffocate, burn and sicken aquatic life and threatens the health and livelihoods of local communities who rely on these rivers. “The stained rivers are so big we can see them from space. These have to be stained a lot to pick them up from space.” said Brett Poulin, Assistant Professor of Environmental Toxicology at UC Davis. More research is needed to understand the problem better and determine whether rivers and streams can rebound, possibly after cold weather promotes permafrost recovery.