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AS and A Level: Hydrology & Fluvial Geomorphology

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Five things you need to understand about hydrology and fluvial geomorphology

  1. 1 Make sure you understand the concept of systems, and the difference between a closed system (the global hydrological cycle) and an open system (the drainage basin)
  2. 2 Learn the correct definitions of all the specialist terms (eg percolation, throughflow, hydraulic radius, etc.
  3. 3 Learn a case study which shows how the theory relates to an actual example of a real river basin.
  4. 4 Remember that rivers are not static – they are affected in the short term by weather patterns and human activity and in the long term by changes in climate, tectonic processes and sea levels.
  5. 5 Pay attention to scale: for example British rivers (and British floods) are tiny compared to the great rivers (and great floods) experienced in other parts of the world.

Common errors in hydrology and fluvial geomorphology essays

  1. 1 Although rivers near their source often look like they are flowing quickly, and rivers near their mouth look like they are flowing slowly, river velocity increases downstream. This is because there is more turbulence upstream (due to friction) and rivers flow more efficiently as they get further downstream (as friction reduces).
  2. 2 Infiltration is the movement of water into the soil. Percolation is the movement of water into the underlying rock. Students often confuse these two terms.
  3. 3 Landforms are often referred to as landforms of erosion (eg waterfalls) or landforms of deposition (eg deltas). However, it is important to remember that other processes (erosion, weathering, transportation, deposition, mass movement) also contribute to the formation of these features.
  4. 4 River valleys and river channels are not the same thing.
  5. 5 Remember that flooding can bring benefits as well as costs.

Top facts to use in your essay answers

  1. 1 Water covers approximately 71% of the Earth's surface
  2. 2 96.5% of the planet's water is found in oceans, 1.7% in groundwater, 1.7% in glaciers and the ice caps of Antarctica and Greenland, a small fraction in other large water bodies, and 0.001% in the air.
  3. 3 Only 2.5% of the Earth's water is freshwater, and 98.8% of that water is in ice and groundwater. Less than 0.3% of all freshwater is in rivers, lakes, and the atmosphere.
  4. 4 The Amazon river is by far the largest in the world in terms of discharge (which is greater than the next seven largest rivers combined), and it has the world’s largest drainage basin. The Nile is generally recognised as the world’s longest river (approximately 6550 km).
  5. 5 River flooding has been the cause of some of the world’s worst environmental disasters. For example, the 1931 Yangtze floods in China may have killed up to 4 million people.

  • Marked by Teachers essays 4
  • Peer Reviewed essays 1
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  1. Marked by a teacher

    Examine the factors influencing the movement of glaciers.

    4 star(s)

    Temperate glaciers move very rapidly, e.g. The Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand moves approximately 300m per year. It is the basal temperature that determines the mechanism of movement. In what follows I will explain the factors influencing different mechanisms of movement. Temperate glaciers move mainly by basal sliding. If the basal temperature is at or above pressure melting point, a thin layer of meltwater will exist between the ice and the valley floor, therefore friction is reduced and enables the glacier to slide over the underlying land.

    • Word count: 838
  2. Marked by a teacher

    Discus to the extent to which you believe Carlisle floods 2005 were the result of intense rainfall rather than the physical characteristics of the drainage basin

    3 star(s)

    This flow had returned again after approximately 175 years. Many geologists and people could say that the floods were cause by human impact, but in reality, that would be unlikely, but not impossible. It would not have been one of the major factors that cause the floods in Carlisle. However for example if, the vegetation in the river or around the river basin was removed or cut down, for the use of more land, or materialistic things, this could have affected the velocity of the river, as vegetation such as trees, act as an interception in the river causing its velocity to slow down.

    • Word count: 648
  3. Marked by a teacher

    Assess the costs and benefits of one river management scheme you have studied

    3 star(s)

    In addition an argument against the management of Mississippi that floods have gotten worse was proved false as records at the time were inaccurate. It was also suggested that some levee's breaking may have saved towns further upstream. Furthermore the jobs created by the construction of levees, flood walls and wing dykes and other management techniques have boosted the economy. There was also extremely hazardous antecendent conditions that could not be predicted, there was 200% more rain than usual for the particular time of year and people were unprepared in the west were flooding is uncommon, this could not be accounted for when managing the floods for the Mississippi.

    • Word count: 632
  4. Peer reviewed

    Explain where and why depositional landforms occur along the course of a river.

    3 star(s)

    Furthermore, the river starts as a stream in the upper course and flows through valleys. The middle course, however, is where the river starts to become wider and deeper. The land, which the river flows over, is becoming flatter and this is where the river starts to meander or bend in the middle course. The lower course is where the river becomes its widest and deepest. This course is found closest to the sea where the river has its mouth. The flat area of land by the riverbanks is known as a floodplain. Sometimes a river can also have an estuary or a delta as its mouth.

    • Word count: 861
  5. Free essay

    Describe the changes of characteristics of the river channel after channelization. Evaluate the pros and cons of channelization on the river channel and its neighbouring areas. Suggest ways to reduce the negative effects that may have occurred.

    Thirdly, because the river was made less meandering, the channel length would become shorter than before. Fourthly, channel gradient would be increased and it will be steeper. Fifthly, the rugged channel bed will be smoothened after channelization taking place. These changes were contributed by the removal of obstructions along the river channel by human effort. As a result, the river flow would become faster and the capacity of the river would increase. There are different advantages for rivers to be channelized, firstly, it will provide more navigable waterways for ships. The stream will be more suitable for navigation and large ships which previously cannot pass through the channel can now pass through the river.

    • Word count: 759
  6. Free essay
  7. How may knowledge of the hydrological cycle and its components assist in devising flood prevention measures?

    This way, flooding can be prevented. Precipitation in the form of snow would spend longer time on the land as it flows into channels only when they melt. Knowledge of the volume of water contained in the snow and the time taken for the melting would help assess if the area has the capacity to hold the water formed from snow melt. Flood can be prevented by attempting to melt some of the snow 1 during the winter time and allowing greater discharge during the season so that when summer comes, the discharge do not increase too much suddenly.

    • Word count: 765
  8. Geography River Analysis

    This resulted in the orange absorbing a lot of water into it and therefore all the extra water increases the drag making the velocity slower. The problems to the pebble collection are that we may have been unsuccessful with the pebbles which we collected as these may have possibly been not the average pebble for that site. This might be because someone's desire is often to select pebbles, most of the times they go for the big and smooth ones.

    • Word count: 996
  9. Define the term permafrost

    It also tend to be less deep, between 10 and 50 meters deep. The surface shows a significant depth of melting in the summer, forming an active layer. The last type is sporadic permafrost which occurs where there is more talik than permafrost. The mean annual temperature in these areas may be around 0�C B) Describe and explain the variety and location of periglacial landforms. There are a number of periglacial landforms caused by permafrost. One of the largest, as a single object, would be pingos. These are rounded ice-cored hills that can reach up to 90 meters high.

    • Word count: 666
  10. Colorado dam

    It flows southwest across the Colorado Plateau into Utah, where the confluence with the Green River in the Canyon lands region brings waters from the northernmost reaches of its drainage basin in Wyoming. Downstream in northern Arizona, the main trunk of the Colorado's branching canyon system- the Grand Canyon- reaches 18 miles in width and cuts down through layers of sedimentary rock that record 2 billion years of geological history. Below the canyon after exiting the plateau, the course turns southwards, forming the California- Arizona state line.

    • Word count: 645
  11. With Reference to your case study of flooding in a large scale drainage basin, examine the effects of flooding on people, property and the land.

    Overall 1040 people died in the floods this death toll resulted from a number of things as well as people by drowning in the flood waters, the water supplies were contaminated for a quarter of million people because of polluted wells, flooded latrines and floating bodies of people and cattle; the young and elderly were most at risk. The problems increased because of the build up of waste that could not be disposed of while the floodwaters remained. A quarter of million people were affected by cholera and typhoid.

    • Word count: 849
  12. A study of the downstream changes in the Curly Burn River

    For a secondary data source I used an ordnance survey map of the Limavady catchment area (1:50,000) to measure the distance between sites on the river as well as locate any nearby features that may be useful. I also used Power's roundness index to identify the shape of bedload particles. The sampling method I used was a combination of pragmatic systematic sampling to locate suitable sites of equal distance along the river and random sampling to choose various bedload particles.

    • Word count: 747
  13. Free essay

    The characteristics of air temperature at a mountain station Grachen, in Wallis and the river flow from a glacierised basin Kanton Wallis in the Swiss Alps

    This is done by using chart wizard. We them used the XY (scatter) The data that we used to plot the graphs was the temperature against the discharge of the river and the years which were involved in the data. This graph was different to the graph that we had done before. We had 3 different types of data to put into 1 graph. This was carried out like the any normal graph, by selecting the graph we want and selecting add data, this then gives the option of adding more data by selecting the cells required and then clicking ok puts the three Once we had

    • Word count: 676
  14. The river Tees

    The upper course is the start of the river. This is known as the source. The upper course is typically steep and straight with lots of fast flowing water. The source of the River Tees starts is journey in Cumbria at 600 metres above sea level. A succession of falls or rapids, where the river traverses a hard series of black basaltic rocks, is called "Cauldron Snout". From a point immediately below this to its mouth, the Tees forms the boundary between the traditional counties of Durham and Yorkshire almost without a break, although since 1974 much of it lies wholly in Durham.

    • Word count: 677
  15. How valid is the concept of grade in a river's long profile

    Gilbert therefore believed that a graded channel is the inevitable product of a river using up excess energy and once a river reaches a graded condition it is in a state of equilibrium and unable to deepen their valleys or change the form and gradient of their long profiles directly. According to Briggs & Smithson a graded profile is necessary to erosion and transportation as 'In the upper reaches of the stream, the discharge is low and the sediment coarse.

    • Word count: 915
  16. As the water flow progresses downstream, the river channel should become wider and deeper due to lateral and vertical erosion

    This is because more tributes add to the water flow as you get further downstream therefore the velocity of the river increases. The speed of the water rushing past causes lateral erosion in the river banks and vertical erosion in the river bed - making the river both wider and deeper.

    • Word count: 354
  17. My aim is to investigate, using the Curley Burn River, a 4th order tributary of the River Roe drainage basin, the relationship between the changes in the river and the distance down stream. I will formulate 3 hypotheses around the river model

    waders * A spare set of clothing had to be brought * There had to be risk assessments of the sites we were visiting * Buoyancy aid and hard hat had to be worn at all times * Open cuts had to be cover before going to the river to prevent Weil's disease * There had to be the safe use of equipment * An emergency plan had to be made and someone else not going to the field must have known where we were * A mobile phone had to be brought out on the field in the case of an emergency * First aid kit Sampling: We used a technique called pragmatic systematic sampling.

    • Word count: 763
  18. There are three sections in a river they are called: The upper Course, The Middle Course and The Lower Course.

    As it does it quickly deepens its valley through down cutting. This creates a steep sided V- shaped valley. Downward erosion is the dominant process. In The Middle Course, the river starts to flow slowly because it starts to transport lots of sediment, as rivers look muddy. As a river moves down its valley, a number of changes occur. The river gets wider, as more tributaries join together. * The valley sides become less steep, giving the shape of a open V. * The river begins to erode sideways, into its banks. This opens out the valley floor and a flood plain that starts to develop.

    • Word count: 679
  19. Explain how the physical environment of the lower Tees and its estuary may have influenced land use up until 1994.The Rivers Tees's estuary has a large area of low-lying mud flats so wildlife and birds mainly used the area before 1994

    Comment on the extent to which the Tees Barrage has modified: i.) The physical environment; The Tees Barrage has changed the level of water upstream which may distress the fish living there. The speed of the river upstream may change so the erosion rates and the amount of sediment the river deposits may alter. Bellow the Barrage the water level has raised which has submerged the shallow areas and the inter-tidal sites of scientific interest.

    • Word count: 520
  20. A letter to the Government of Bangladesh

    Emergency flood warning system it will tell us when the flood is coming so the village people can be ready. This will really help the village people and the amount of people dieing will be decreased. With the increase of population, industrial growth, more and more settlements and development in flood plains, flood hazards in Bangladesh have become ever-increasing natural disasters resulting in causing the highest economic damage among all kinds of natural disasters around the world.

    • Word count: 477
  21. Geography Fieldwork Write-up

    Roundness of the Load - the further down the river, the rounder the load was. This is because the further a rock has been in the river and has travelled in the river, the more erosion processes, such as abrasion and attrition, and transportation processes, such as saltation and traction, it will have been exposed. These processes will have gradually eroded the angular parts of the rock until eventually the rock is left roughly rounded. However there were notable anomalies to this theory, such as a rock which was picked up at survey site 10 (a site in the middle course of the river), being the most angular rock, measuring 50 on the R.I.

    • Word count: 685
  22. Describe the main features of a mirror meander. Explain, by referring to river processes, how such features have been formed. You may draw a labelled diagram as part of your answer.

    This is due to the upper course is often on mountainous areas. Therefore the water is very powerful enough to pick up large pebbles and rocks, which collide in a process called attrition. Along the process the bedrocks which the river flows over gets eroded by the broken fragments of rocks. In the upper course of a river vertical erosion cuts downwards through the rocks. This exposes rocks to weather such as freeze thaw action which breaks down the rocks into smaller particles.

    • Word count: 380
  23. Below is a table that would show us how to grade each river

    6 measure air and water temperature 7 collect a sample for lab analysis Visible Pollution When a river becomes badly polluted, for whatever reasons, it will be evident to someone standing near the river. If you stood next to a heavily polluted river, then you would be able to smell a pungent smell. There would also be visible pollution, for example, a stray bottle floating in the river. We have used a qualitative table to test how polluted a river is.

    • Word count: 674

Conclusion analysis

Good conclusions usually refer back to the question or title and address it directly - for example by using key words from the title.
How well do you think these conclusions address the title or question? Answering these questions should help you find out.

  1. Do they use key words from the title or question?
  2. Do they answer the question directly?
  3. Can you work out the question or title just by reading the conclusion?
  • To assess whether the modified channel of the river ash is effective in reducing the risk of flooding to local homes.

    "During this project I have gained a deeper understanding of rivers. I learnt about deposition and erosion and how they can affect river channels. I learnt how certain factors can speed up the flow of rivers including the wetted perimeter and grates. I learnt how to carry out a wide range of methods to collect results to help me draw a valid conclusion and I found out how to use new pieces of equipment like the clinometer to perform these investigations. Overall I performed a successful investigation that fulfilled the aim."

  • Compare the impact and responses to a major flood in an MEDC and LEDC.

    "In conclusion a flood in an LEDC has much more disastrous impacts as the quality of infrastructure and response is far weaker. Only with the help of foreign aid can these disasters be improved and the impacts made to be less harmful. An MEDC however has the funds and the s general capability to control their rivers and prevent lots of damage being causes, whilst preventing loss of life also."

  • Assess the costs and benefits of one river management scheme you have studied

    "In my opinion the flood management schemes are costly but essential. But for the management techniques used a lot more damage would have been created. It must been seen that the Mississippi needs to be controlled as there would be huge public opposition to simply "doing nothing". Finally the management employed was only designed to protect the local areas of a certain river discharge; they were not designed to prevent flooding of such magnitude in 1993 and therefore were not at fault for the damage generated."

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