Siberia’s Rivers

Satellite view of a blackwater river in Siberia.

Each winter the Kolyma River in Siberia freezes to a depth of several meters. But by June the river thaws and discharges its annual 136 cubic kilometers of  water into the Arctic. The dark color of the river comes from the sediment and organic material it carries. The Kolyma is the world’s largest river underlain with continuous permafrost. Parts of the river system’s permafrost date back to the Pleistocene more than 12,000 years ago. Since much of its organic matter comes from its permafrost, researchers expect the amount of organic material in the Kolyma’s discharge to increase as the permafrost degrades in our warming climate. (Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

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