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China Earth News Science

China's Yangtze River Turns Red 272

redletterdave writes "The Yangtze River, the third longest river in the world traditionally known as the 'golden watercourse,' mysteriously blushed for the first time on Sept. 6. Residents in the surrounding area near the city of Chongqing, where the Yangtze connects to the Jialin River, literally stopped in their tracks when they noticed their once golden river had turned a shocking shade of red. Residents have carefully crept down to the riverbanks for the past few days to save some of the red, tomato juice-like river water in bottles. Early predictions from scientists say the red water was likely a result of pollution, but investigators are still investigating the unknown cause."
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China's Yangtze River Turns Red

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  • by __aaltlg1547 ( 2541114 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @04:56PM (#41275759)
    Soon Moh She will lead the workers out of their factories and part the Yellow Sea.
    • Soon Moh She will lead the workers out of their factories and part the Yellow Sea.

      Which, if this is pollution related, may in fact actually be "yellow" by then!
      Now, if the yellow area just makes it down to the mouth of the Yangtze River we might get a nice swirled paisley effect...
      Tie Dyed ocean, could there be better proof of God's Love?

    • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Sunday September 09, 2012 @04:40AM (#41278629)
      But not before the evil Pharaoh will have been humbled by the other nine plagues of Communism: shortage of diapers in drug stores, ten years of waiting time for a new Volga car, dirty tram seats, the darkness-causing industrial air pollution, attentive secret police agents on every corner, badly fitting shapeless clothes made of rough fabric that itches on your bum, badly maintained roads threatening to destroy your Volga car's shock absorbers on every kilometer (if you have one (a Volga car, not a kilometer)), oranges only for Christmas in shops, and worst of all, Soviet ballet movies with outrageous picture quality every night on the telly.
  • by fragfoo ( 2018548 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @04:58PM (#41275771)

    Obvious propaganda from the chinese communist party.

    • by icebike ( 68054 ) * on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:20PM (#41275927)

      Oh right, commemorating the great events of September ???, lessee, when was that?

      Huge earthquakes [huffingtonpost.com], near Yiliang County.
      Followed by heavy rains.
      Large landslides.
      117 miles south of a major Yangtze tributary into which local rivers drain.

      Far more likely an industrial spill or iron ore laden mudslide.

      • by fm6 ( 162816 )

        Jeez dude, lighten up, and enjoy some good old-fashioned Communist Propaganda. [youtube.com]

    • by fm6 ( 162816 )

      Sorry, the color red no longer belongs to socialism. It's been take over by a totally different movement [reddogreport.com].

      • It was news media that assigned the colors. It was GOP blue and Dems red when I was a kid, then they switched it for what I'm sure are curious reasons.

        • by fm6 ( 162816 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @08:37PM (#41277035) Homepage Journal

          I don't remember the parties having any colors when I was a kid, though according to WP, the Dems and Reps did indeed sometimes use Red and Blue respectively. And of course everywhere but here, the left is "Red" and the right is "Blue". I think this has to do with the left being fond of waving red flags (an old symbol for a fight to the death) and the right usually being associated with asserting traditional hierarchies, which originally meant rule by so-called Blue Bloods — people who had the right ancestors.

          But the red flag became the symbol of the socialist movement, which has always been unpopular in the U.S. I think American liberals consciously avoided using red, so as to avoid assisting those who defined a commie as anybody to the left of Genghis Khan. So the standard color scheme never really caught on here. Meanwhile, the world socialist movement fell out of favor after the biggest Marxist state collapsed and the second-biggest basically switched over to intensive capitalism — pretty much destroying the whole red-versus-blue image. Since Americans aren't great at historical memory, they were now free to re-invent the color scheme.

          It's true that the current Red-State/Blue-State thing started out on TV. (WP says it was first used in the 2000 presidential coverage). But I think the main credit for its spread goes to the right, which embraced an image [wikimedia.org] that neatly illustrated their claim that liberals represent a group of people living in a few prosperous coastal states, and who completely ignore the needs of Americans in flyover states.

          Note that redstate.com is an influential political blog, while bluestate.com belongs to an obscure lighting and design firm whose web site has been in parking mode since 2007 [archive.org].

  • by future assassin ( 639396 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @04:59PM (#41275781) Homepage

    They've unleashed gods wrath on us with their patent wars....

  • Red? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by WD ( 96061 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:01PM (#41275807)

    Maybe my eyes need to be checked, but it looks brown to me.

    • Re:Red? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:07PM (#41275859)

      I was thinking the same thing then clicked the link in the article and that was where the red pictures were, the page we are linked to has the before pictures.

      It's pretty unmistakeably red if you can see red.

    • Re:Red? (Score:5, Informative)

      by SuurMyy ( 1003853 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:13PM (#41275881) Homepage
      Here are the red pictures [dailymail.co.uk]
      • Re:Red? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:32PM (#41276025)

        Quite obviously photoshopped. Look at the photo with the two men, one holding a bottle. Now look along the left side of the bottle. Look at the men's left arms. Screaming fake. If you inspect some of the other pictures closely, you will also find other areas where color manipulation is evident.

        • by Mashiki ( 184564 )

          Yeah even I have to agree to that. I sent a message to my friend who lives in Chongqing, after a long night of partying I got a reply of "what happened?" I guess he didn't even know about it.

        • by poity ( 465672 )

          Wow, no joke, that's some shoddy PS job. Also the shore-side water in the background between the two men's heads. They forgot to paint that part.

        • Re:Red? (Score:5, Informative)

          by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @08:32PM (#41277013) Homepage Journal

          It looks to me like they tweaked the saturation. I was wondering about that because I saw the same pictures elsewhere and the color is not nearly so dramatic -- at least if you're not conditioned to having the river look one way or the other.

          My wife is a physical oceanographer and her first reaction when she heard about this is that it was some kind of phytoplankton bloom. Some pictures I've seen make it look like some kind of dye, which is more plausible than you might think.

          When my brother was a civil engineering co-op student he caused a local news sensation . He'd been given the job of doing a dye study looking for illegal sewer connections. What happens is that developers assume the first pipe they come to is the right one to hook the sanitary sewer lines up to. He only needed half a teaspoon of dye powder, but the smallest quantity he could order was a two gallon pail. So he flushed the whole pail down the toilet, and hit the jackpot, dyeing the whole harbor of Salem Mass fluorescent green.

          • My wife is a physical oceanographer and her first reaction when she heard about this is that it was some kind of phytoplankton bloom

            That's what I was thinking, it's the right time of year and they are not uncommon in China (recall the massive bloom they were cleaning up around the time of the Olympics).

    • Re:Red? (Score:5, Informative)

      by icebike ( 68054 ) * on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:23PM (#41275949)
    • by fm6 ( 162816 )

      Red and brown are pretty much the same color at different brightness. Weird, but true.

  • by DaTrueDave ( 992134 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:02PM (#41275817)

    I was looking at some of the photos linked in that article, and I noticed that some of them [dailymail.co.uk] are pretty obviously photoshopped. I'm sure the river was red, but I'm not so sure it was such a dramatic shade of red. You can see where the editing was sloppy and bled over into the arm and thumb of the person holding the bottle, and the arm of the guy behind, as well as some sections that are probably the actual shade of red that the river turned.

    • by cpu6502 ( 1960974 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:08PM (#41275863)

      >>>bled over into the arm and thumb of the person holding the bottle

      Wow. Okay so what motive would the Daily Mail of the fine and prestigious UK have to colorize these photos? Hmmm.

      • by Clsid ( 564627 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:18PM (#41275913)

        We don't know but the guy does have a point, that picture was photoshopped.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I'm pretty sure that was intended to be read with a sarcastic tone. Though I'm from the States, from what I've gathered the Daily Mail is like the UK's version of the National Enquirer--correspondence of their articles to actual reality is purely coincidental.

          And, like the Enquirer, the more fantastic (in the literal sense) the story, the better.

      • It's called "sensationalism" and it sells newspapers.
      • by poity ( 465672 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @07:41PM (#41276793)

        On the captions you see it's by China Photo Press/Barcroft Media, which means DailyMail bought them from 3rd party photo journalists, who obviously were looking for a quick sell and weren't concerned with some color enhancement. Here's a phone camera video taken yesterday http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XNDQ3ODM2NDUy.html [youku.com] It's not as red as the photos, but still very red. The locals who are talking to the guy filming say it's the first time they've seen anything like this, so it's not a total fake either.

      • Hahaha. It's the Daily Mail- they don't need a motive to make shit up, it's second nature!

        But if you want a motive, try- the pictures weren't dramatic enough, the real world colouration being not that drastic, and they really want their article to be linked all over the internet so that they get more page views?

    • by TaoPhoenix ( 980487 ) <TaoPhoenix@yahoo.com> on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:21PM (#41275935) Journal

      I'm so upset that I didn't even bother to read more than a few sentences of the article given the topic we're having.
      "Nobody is quite sure what caused the color change."

      So in the rush to get there first with the reporting race, someone couldn't be bothered to give a college chem lab student lunch and an hour to get a chemical composition of the water? Oh, right, that would actually take journalism work.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:22PM (#41275941)

      The same already photoshopped picture is available from both China Foto Press and Barcroft Media, which are credited in the Daily Mail picture. Sloppy screening on the Daily Mail's behalf, but the image manipulation appears to originate closer to the source.

    • Here's another one [dailymail.co.uk] for Photoshop Disasters [psdisasters.com]. Look at that psychedelic halo around that tree in the lower left!

      Also, is it me, or is there something wrong with the general color balance of the picture?
    • Could someone with a knack for photoshop re-color the water in the picture to a nice blue color, with a caption saying both images are photoshopped? The "original" definitely looks photoshopped, but I admit I wasn't looking for it and I didn't notice until someone pointed it out. To see the the same photo with a sparkling blue river would be a great reminder that we have to keep our skepticism active at all times.

  • Ukraine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:09PM (#41275865) Homepage Journal

    Here is a picture that I remember from way back [pikabu.ru] - this is a red river in the city of Zaporizhia [wikipedia.org] in Ukraine, this city has (or had) a number of factories, smelters, motor factories, I think most of them were just dumping the waste right into Dnepr (the main river in Ukraine) and then all that water flows into the Black sea.

  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:12PM (#41275875) Homepage

    I'm from Cleveland. Call me when the Yangste is on fire [ohiohistorycentral.org].

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by desertfool ( 21262 )

      Came here to say this. The Cuyahoga caught fire in 1969. How long will it take China to start taking their environment seriously? I can't believe that they would let this go on forever, but it isn't a democracy and money makes people blind to the effects of their actions.

      • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @10:55PM (#41277615) Journal

        How long will it take China to start taking their environment seriously?

        China's environmental record is similar to the US in that it is full of contradictions. Look up the Loose (sic?) plateau in NW China, it's an area the size of France that 20yrs ago looked like an Afghan desert and today is one of the world's largest apple producing regions, goats are now fenced in, the hills now have trees and wild life, the land has stopped eroding away faster than anywhere else on earth, locals were given land to farm in exchange for caring for it in the prescribed manner, and the average income of the locals has quadrupled (after taking inflation into account). The entire thing cost $500M and was done with hand tools using local labor. However these were all secondary aims of the project, the primary aim of the project was to stop silt filling up the three gorges dam. ;)

    • When it is, can we toss the idiot who photoshopped these in it? [dailymail.co.uk]

  • by jopet ( 538074 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:12PM (#41275879) Journal

    Aluminium plants produce a huge quantity of "red mud" which is red from iron oxide. A spill could well color the whole river red.
    See e.g. here where the mud spilled through a broken dam in Hungary: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/gallery/2010/10/05/GA2010100502818.html [washingtonpost.com]

    • And those photos are a lot closer in color to the un-enhanced spots on the Daily Mail shots. No doubt it was orange, but not the bright pumpkin orange from the daily mail shots (not that the DM necessarily touched them up, they obviously belong to a Chinese outfit).

  • by Grayhand ( 2610049 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:15PM (#41275891)
    There are chemicals that can cause it but the other option is all the fertilizer resulted in a red tide, a type of algae. For wildlife it's as bad or worse than a chemical spill. The blooms can come on suddenly and should fade once the food source gets used up.
    • by fm6 ( 162816 )

      Red tides have a number of causes, some of which are quite natural. The algal bloom is often toxic, which makes me worry for the fisherman in TFA.

    • China even already has a strain of red algae [newscientist.com] in the mountains. Though it's probably not that one, since it only grows in one (large) area.
  • by Suffering Bastard ( 194752 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:19PM (#41275915)
    Only Glorious Red Rivers for Glorious Red Chinese Communist Republic! Soon all waters and newborn babies everywhere will shine triumphantly with Glorious Red Hue!
    • by fm6 ( 162816 )

      No longer appropriate for a country that is only nominally Communist, and happens to be the biggest Capitalistic entity on the planet.

  • by fredgiblet ( 1063752 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:19PM (#41275917)
    I blame Obama. Who's with me?
  • Listen (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:20PM (#41275925)

    Just let the Jews go. It only gets worse from here.

    - Pharaoh

  • Dumping (Score:5, Informative)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @05:24PM (#41275957) Homepage

    Some of the religious nuts will probably claim this is bibilical, but more likely, somebody dumped some industrial waste.

    Something like that happened in San Jose, CA about twenty years ago. Someone dumped several big industrial plating baths into the sewers all at once. This killed most of the bacteria that digest waste in the sewerage treatment plant. So for about three days, raw sewerage was dumped into the San Francisco Bay. Big mess, especially since there isn't much water flow in the south end of San Francisco Bay to dilute that stuff. It could be both seen and smelled. EPA fined San Jose millions for that. San Jose found and fined the plating company.

  • Call me when it catches on fire [wikipedia.org]. That's how you know an industrial revolution is complete.

  • by tbird81 ( 946205 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @06:07PM (#41276243)

    And then they get "sync'd"?

    Now imagine that with 14 million women and poor sanitation.

  • ...that river was called golden for a reason -- it always carries suspended particles of clay, so the color of the river depends on the composition of clay around it.

    Red clay is nothing unusual, so most likely the river eroded some part of a bank with a different clay composition. If this is the case, any sane geologist should be able to find the place along the river where color changes, take water samples, and determine the source.

    • by Genda ( 560240 )

      China is notorious for its poor environmental practices and there are so many ways to get red, from organic pollutants to heavy metal salts to industrial dyes and coloring agents. The "Golden Watercourse" has run golden for many thousands of years, the chance of a sudden color shift not the result of human intervention (read dumping) though possible is vanishingly remote.

      A similar event along the Yangtze happened in February of 2008 when the river ran red and authorities found large amounts of Ammonium Nitr [msn.com]

      • 1. It was not Yangtze river itself.
        2. None of the chemicals mentioned are bright red.
        3. The amount of red subtance that requires such color change over the whole river likely exceeds the capacity of any chemical production in the whole China. Yellow color was caused by clay, so there is no reason to suspect anything other than clay unless demonstrated otherwise.
        4. Water pollutants are water-soluble, red substance that is seen in the river now is clearly suspension.

        • by Genda ( 560240 )

          In reply...
          1. The Han River is a tributary fork of the Yangtze, what you see on the Han, you see on the Yangtze shortly there after.
          2. I beg your pardon, Permanganates can range anywhere from deep purple to red depending on the metal, and this didn't have to be an identical dumping, Iron oxides, certain lead compounds (already responsible for colorful pollution on smaller rivers), even cinnabar (mercury sulphate) could color water red. I mention in the first paragraph we could be looking at any one of a n

  • a bloom caused by excess nutrients, i.e. pollution, in the water ?

    maybe a kind of algae ?

    that would be my guess.

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Saturday September 08, 2012 @06:54PM (#41276543) Homepage

    Based on a quick study of the poorly Photoshopped image (you can clearly see the mask lines, and the bits they forgot to alter) it looks like someone simply doubled the saturation on the water.

    I've made an attempt to restore the image to something approaching reality [imageshack.us].

  • You've got to like the last sentence of the dailymail piece:

    According to chapter 16, verse 4 of the Bible's book of Revelations, one of the signs that Armageddon is near will be an angel pouring a bowl into the rivers, turning them into blood.

  • I see why the Baiji dolphins of that river went extinct. At least they didn't have to suffer through this red mess.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baiji [wikipedia.org]

  • You've seen the movie. Don't make me go through all the stuff again.

    Just ask the Pharaoh...Oops! My bad!

  • Obviously someone blew up the local true blood factory.. time to get the garlic out.

  • ...her "golden river" turns red every four weeks!

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