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Using examples from a river you know, describe and account for changes that occur in the channel as you go downstream

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Introduction

Using examples from a river you know, describe and account for changes that occur in the channel as you go downstream The River Rh�ne is one of Europe's great rivers, stretching 813 kilometres from south-west Switzerland to its delta near Marseilles. For hundreds of years it was considered an unpredictable, violent river, but, through the actions of man, its character has changed completely. The Rh�ne begins its life on the Rh�ne glacier in the Swiss Alps. Unlike most rivers, the Rh�ne is fed by melt-water, making it unpredictable. Whilst other rivers will only flood during the spring, the Rh�ne theoretically can flood any time of the year. Temperature changes of only four degrees Celsius can drastically affect the discharge of the river. The river during this upstream stage has a lot of energy, since the gradient down which the river flows is unusually steep. This results in a flow that is typical of rivers in their upland course. The flow of the river can be described as very turbulent, evidenced by the eddies and whirlpools that pepper this part of the river. ...read more.

Middle

The dam removes much of the river's energy at this point, harnessing its power for hydroelectricity. The result is that in the remaining upper course to Lyons, the river is now a gently meandering river that is depositing sediment. The river now looks incongruous with its environment, hemmed in by the deep valleys that surround it. At Lyons, the Rh�ne is joined by the Sa�ne tributary, and marks the start of the river's southward course. In many respects the Rh�ne is characteristic of rivers in their lower course. The river channel is more efficient, allowing a laminar flow with wide flood plains and bluffs around the Rh�ne, The river's competence and capacity also change. The Rh�ne upstream was more suited to carrying large amounts of material occasionally, while the Rh�ne downstream is completely different. It competence has gone down, so that it is only capable of carrying material in suspension and solution, due to a decrease in the river's peak energy. Yet, the actual amount of material carried has gone up drastically, because of the increase in the river's discharge. The erosion taking place has also changed, from being vertical to horizontal. ...read more.

Conclusion

As a consequence, the river becomes even more unpredictable, with floods determined by both the weather in the Swiss Alps, and in the Massif Central. After the Ard�che has joined the Rh�ne, the chance of flooding increases dramatically. For example, in May 1856 the Rh�ne flooded so much that over two hundred kilometres either side of the river were covered. This was the main stimulus for the taming of the Rh�ne by the French authorities. At Arles, the river enters the final stage of its course: the delta, or 'Camargue'. Here the river changes dramatically again, splitting up into the Grand and Petit Rh�ne. As sediment is being constantly deposited, the Camarge is forever expanding outwards into the Gulf of Lions. The delta itself is actuate, so that sediment is dumped before the river reaches the Mediterranean, since the river no longer has enough energy to continue carrying material. In conclusion, it can be seen that the river Rh�ne is very different in character according to which stage of its course it is in. Whilst turbulent and small upstream, the river becomes a large, lazy, meandering river downstream, and a braided river at the Camargue. This shows that physical conditions, such as gradient and rock type, considerably affect the character of the Rh�ne, and rivers in general. ...read more.

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