Orange Rivers: The Alarming Transformation of Alaska’s Arctic Waterways

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Alaska’s beautiful pristine arctic rivers, once a testament to untouched natural beauty, are now undergoing a startling and troubling transformation. Approximately 75 of the waterways have turned into bright, rusty, orange rivers and streams. 

The Brooks Range, a 700-mile mountain range stretching from northern Alaska into Canada’s Yukon Territory, has been especially hard hit by this phenomenon. 

The cause of this dramatic color shift is currently under investigation by researchers and environmentalists.  Preliminary findings suggest a direct correlation with climate change, specifically the thawing permafrost. 

As the frozen ground unfreezes, it releases oxidizing iron and sulfuric acid into the water, which results in rusty orange hues. This discoloration is indicative of high concentrations of heavy metals saturating the rivers, with potential repercussions for the delicate ecosystems and communities dependent on these waterways.

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