"The phenomenon threatens local drinking water, and scientists think climate change may be the culprit."
"Dozens of once crystal-clear streams and rivers in Arctic Alaska are now running bright orange and cloudy, and in some cases they are becoming more acidic. This otherwise undeveloped landscape now looks as if an industrial mine has been in operation for decades, and scientists want to know why.
Roman Dial, a professor of biology and mathematics at Alaska Pacific University, first noticed the stark water-quality changes while doing field work in the Brooks Range in 2020. He spent a month with a team of six graduate students, and they could not find adequate drinking water. “There’s so many streams that are not just stained, they're so acidic that they curdle your powdered milk,” he said. In others, the water was clear, “but you couldn't drink it because it had a really weird mineral taste and tang.”
Dial, who has spent the last 40 years exploring the Arctic, was gathering data on climate-change-driven changes in Alaska’s tree line for a project that also includes work from ecologists Patrick Sullivan, director of the Environment and Natural Resources Institute at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and Becky Hewitt, an environmental studies professor at Amherst College. Now the team is digging into the water-quality mystery. “I feel like I’m a grad student all over again in a lab that I don’t know anything about, and I’m fascinated by it,” Dial said."
Emily Schwing reports for High Country News December 13, 2022.