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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. To what extent are fluvio-glacial deposits and landforms distinctive?

    Erosional processes occur as glaciers move forward; advance downhill due to gravity. This movement and subsequent erosion can have impacts on a wide variety of scales, and varying implications can be seen over short and long periods of time, or repeated cycles of glaciations. This essay will attempt to describe and explain the processes of glacial erosion and the significance of the impacts on landscapes and their development. Examples will be drawn upon with reference to areas currently undergoing glaciations as well as areas that were once, but are no longer glacial regions.

    • Word count: 2936
  2. As a group we have decided to look at the changes in a river in the Gortin Glens. Our study took place on the 23rd of May 2007. We decided to study the changes in a river as it travels downstream

    From the map you can see that the source of the river begins at approximately 490m. There are several smaller tributaries that make their way into the channel of the Pollen Burn and they have been shown on the map. Thematic Context Drainage Basin A drainage basin on river basin is an area of land drained by a main river channel and its tributaries. Boundaries between drainage basins are called a watershed, which is a ridge of higher land separating two or more river basins.

    • Word count: 2759
  3. Case Study on The Three Gorges Dam in China

    With an increasing economic strength, the Chinese Communist government can afford huge public works such as the Three Gorges dam which they believe will benefit the economy further in the future. Presently (2007) the structure of the dam is said to be completed although it will not be fully operational until 2008 when it will be able to generate electricity at full capacity. The River Yangtze The River Yangtze is the world's third largest river which flows for a total of 6,211km from the Tibet in the West through China and ends in the East where it branches of as a delta into The Pacific Ocean.

    • Word count: 2951
  4. I will be analysing six different sites in the River Wye, at the western part of the Peak District. The six sites that I am visiting and investigating are: south of Buxton, eastern part of Buxton, Millers Dale, Litton Mill, Ashford on water, Bakewell.

    So why do we Study Rivers? We study rivers because just like us human beings have homes, the flora and fauna also live and have their own territory. This means little water creatures have their homes under rocks or on top of the rocks in order for them to survive. Furthermore foods webs help us also identify what kind of producers, consumers live and how they survive. Nevertheless, some rivers like the River Thames also run through cities. We also obtain knowledge about the speed of the river, whether the river is oxygenated or the bedload in the water is affecting the landforms causing it to erode.

    • Word count: 2914
  5. We conducted the River study we did a number of things to make sure it was accurate. For example when we tested the velocity of the river we would measure the start and the finish distance, and ensure that all factors were kept the same

    results, and take sketches at each site * Clipboards to record the results more accurately * A digital camera, to take photographs at each site, to ensure that if we forget our sketches we could use them afterwards to help with the sketch. Method To record the width at each site we will take the tape measure, and position people at either side of the bank. We will then take a reading, and the result will be recorded neatly in a table for accuracy.

    • Word count: 2842
  6. A survey of the river Alyn in Wales

    is the amount of water which flows through the river at any given time and it's not what wears down pebble size (this is friction) Methodology To measure velocity we had to get an orange and let it flow down a certain length of the river, we timed how long the orange took to get to this area. Equipment: * Waders * 2 ranging poles * An orange * A stop clock * Tape measure To measure the depth of the river we had to get two ranging poles and position them at each side of the bank then measured

    • Word count: 2334
  7. Find out in which ways a river changes from its source to its mouth.

    Hypothesis * As the depth of the river increases from source to mouth, the sediment size will decrease. I came to the decision to test this hypothesis, as it is fairly complex yet obvious. The sediment size will decrease as attrition from boulders makes the size smaller. Also corrasion from rocks rubbing on the riverbed will cause the bed to become deeper as the river flows from source to mouth. * The width of the river will increase towards the mouth of the river. This is because of lateral erosion taking place. As meanders of turns in the river become more frequent, the erosion takes place on the outside of the turn making the river wider.

    • Word count: 2715
  8. Studying rivers - The river that I will be study is the river Goyt in the Peak District.

    Discharge is measured in Cumecs (cubic meters/ second). My hypothesis is that the discharge of the river increases the further you are down stream. The formula for measuring discharge is, cross-sectional area multiplied by average velocity. The velocity of the river is the speed at which it flows. To measure velocity we use a device called a flow meter. To prove my hypothesis I will measure the discharge of five sites from the source to the mouth of the river Goyt.

    • Word count: 2560
  9. The characteristics affecting the flow of a river.

    Therefore increases as you go downstream. Ideal Stream Model Information on rivers All rivers start at the source and end at the mouth which leads into the sea or another river. The source is usually on high land such as mountains and therefore the gradient is steeper nearer the source. The stones near the source are large and jagged. This is mainly because they may have only just been broken off and fallen into the river. This also means that they may not have time to be weathered yet so have no rounded edjes.

    • Word count: 2195
  10. The characteristics of the Horsbere Brook vary along it length.

    Traction - Large rocks and boulders are rolled along the bed of the river. Saltation - Smaller stones are bounced along the bed of a river in a leap-frogging motion. Suspension - Fine material, light enough in weight to be carried by the river, it is this material that discolours the water. Solution - Dissolved material transported by the river. Cross-section of a typical ridge and value landscape Ridges and vales form a common landscape in many parts of south and east England. They occur in mainly resistant and permeable rocks alternate with mainly impermeable and less resistant rock.

    • Word count: 2721
  11. Upper Porter Valley in Sheffield - source related study.

    Though a small, modern plaque outside the workshop says that a Mr. Shepherd employed 10 men to work for him in 1794. This can be seen in figure 1. These ten men reportedly worked for Mr. Shepherd in the larger, grinding workshop (hull). Figure 1 - Plaque suggesting that there were 10 men employed in 1794 (bottom two lines) Source A also says, "streams were often so crowded that the tail goit of one mill fed the dam of the next". I believe that my visit to Shepherd Wheel gave me evidence to agree with this statement.

    • Word count: 2600
  12. Fluid Dynamics - Free surface profiles in an open channel.

    The laboratory experiment not only has allowed visualisation but also made possible quantitative measurements of water depths, location of the jump and discharge rates. The free surface profile shall be initially plotted using experimental measurements of the initial depths and the sequent depths. This shall then be compared to theoretical values. Experimental Apparatus The experiment has been carried out in the flumes of the Imperial College Fluid dynamics laboratory. The flow through a channel in which the sluice gate partially obstructs the flow has been used, (diagram I).

    • Word count: 2810
  13. Whitewell Brook: To what extent does the discharge of the Whitewell Brook agree with theory?

    The river flows down approximately 200metres, this is spread evenly, and we know this because there are no clusters of contour line on the course of the Whitewell Brook. There are three major tributaries that flow into the Whitwell Brook, these are called Heb Clough, Bridge Clough water and . The Theoretical basis of the study Rain falls evenly over the drainage basin. The rain water enters the Whitewell Brook by a large amount of tributaries, as mentioned before. Water enters the tributaries in three different ways, through flow, surface flow and underground flow (see diagram 1.7).

    • Word count: 2386
  14. My aim is to collect data by taking various readings and measurements from the River Conwy to give valid proof of different river processes such as attrition, abrasion and deposition.

    The size of sediment should decrease further away from the source because most of the large rocks are left at the source because the river does not have enough energy to carry them at that point. The rocks that are carried downstream get broken up due to attrition as the speed of water increases and they abrade the bed and banks, another cause making the river wider and deeper. Data Collection Method We collected data at five stops along the river Conwy in order to see the gradual change of different factors and changes in the shape of the valley.

    • Word count: 2785
  15. River Processes - What are the physical characteristics of a river?

    high in valley * In flood, river moves boulders * Small discharge * Small boulders help to wear bed and banks * Load more angular and larger * Pebbels wear potholes in bed * Uneven bed; water flow turbulent. Much energy used overcoming friction * Waterfalls and rapids * Valley wider and straighter; spurs have becomebluffs * Lower gradient * Lateral erosion and transport dominant * Floodplain beginning to develop * River cliffs and slip-off slopes * Extra water from tributaries (more load carried)

    • Word count: 2505
  16. 'How does the risk of flooding vary along the course of the River Eea?'

    With a higher velocity, the channel will be able to take more water, therefore a low velocity will get a high score. The Hydraulic radius of the channel is the efficiency of it, so a high hydraulic radius will get a low score. The discharge is the amount of water moved down the channel, so high discharge will mean a high score. If flood prevention schemes are in place then this will receive a low score. To help me prove this hypothesis right or wrong at each site I filled out a table with the required information.

    • Word count: 2745
  17. The Mississippi River, located in North America, begins in Lake Itasca, Minnesota and flows south, ending at the Gulf of Mexico, Louisiana.

    However, the engineers that worked on the river wanted to stop even these small annual floods, thus the flood prevention methods they used put an end to minor flooding incidents. > Major Flooding (extensive inundation and property damage; closure of main roads; evacuation of people and livestock) Major floods were predicted to occur every five to ten years. These floods are caused by exceptionally heavy rainfall (having a frequency of once in every ten years). Seasonal rainfall leads to the ground being already quite saturated, and when combined with heavier than usual rain, will cause serious flooding.

    • Word count: 2273
  18. How Do River Characteristics Vary Downstream?

    various measurements at twelve sites, each site being progressively further downstream, at each site a ten meter stretch was marked out to assist with the study. The aspects of the river that were to be measured are described below: 1) Width -simply the width of the actual stream using a tape measure. (Fig 2.1) 2) Depth - to accumulate both an average and a reliable measurement of the depth, three readings were taken using a meter rule as shown on Fig 2.2.

    • Word count: 2245
  19. Needs somebody like a secretary to help him out with his paperwork. But the main problem is that he urgently needs somebody to help him out with his paperwork such as mail merging his documents of prospective clients.

    Between site 5 and site 8 I can say that the width of the river has gotten wider by a total of 7.04m. From this inclination I can say that the general trend of the river width shows that the river pattern is not fluctuating too much in terms of the width constantly changing from decreasing and increasing but is instead increasing at a steady rate. This means that generally as you go downstream from site to site the width of the river is increasing.

    • Word count: 2133
  20. "The Hydrological Study Of the River Conwy"

    Downstream, the bed load size will decrease 9. Downstream, the bed load roundness will increase. Background Information Site 1- (Nant-y-Brwyn) Ref- 792 450 Nant-y-Brwyn was the site highest above sea level and therefore the nearest to the source, which we studied. This site shows examples of interlocking spurs, a V-shaped valley and impermeable slates and quartz. The site is a tributary to the river Conwy. The rocks were impermeable and had a covering of peat, so there is no infiltration and the ground is flashy. The peat is saturated as high rainfall levels and cold conditions mean there is neither very little evaporation nor decaying here. The V-shaped valley is a result of vertical erosion.

    • Word count: 2061
  21. The object of this essay is to highlight, find and tell you about rivers. Looking and investigating all aspects of it and noting what I find here is what came of it.

    -Picture of river spring -Picture of river source Upper Course In the upper courses of the river e.g. the source, the shape of the channel is a V. This shows that there is vertical erosion present, as the erosion is penetrating further down instead of across. There are four ways the upper course can be eroded. These are; - 1. Hydraulic power, where the force of the water on the bed and the banks of the river. It is particularly powerful when the river is in flood. The force of the water removes material from the beds and banks of the river.

    • Word count: 2076
  22. An Evaluation of the Economic, Social and Environmental impacts of building the Aswan Dam on the people and environment of the River Nile

    This basin irrigation supported one good crop a year." (A modern Lake Moeris: Wadi Rayan by Gregory Baecher.)" The River's water and the fertile soil along its banks created the perfect setting for the evolution of the civilisations that existed in the ancient world. Ancient peoples lived along the Nile's banks and cultivated the art of agriculture As the Nile was so significant to the way the ancient people went about everyday life, many statues and monuments were built to mark its importance.

    • Word count: 2642
  23. Interpretation of why average velocity changes with distance downstream

    It works exactly the same way for a river; the steeper the bed the faster the water will move over it. Also the smoother the river bed is the less friction there will be and therefore the water will more over this bed faster (the river bed becomes smoother due to erosion.) Another reason for the change in velocity is the landuse. Toward the source of the river Roe there is the Glenshane forest and the land is boggy or peaty, while the mouth and lower section has been drained by the surrounding towns or urban areas.

    • Word count: 2261
  24. Assess the different ways in which we can use river environments and identify the different conflicts that occur

    The industry such as a hydroelectric power station has developed in the Pennies, and also quarries, as there is little settlement around to cause conflict with. Forestry also takes place on the valley sides where land is cheap. The River Tees is also used as a water supply as reservoirs where created in the Pennies, which also are used for recreational activities. The population density is low due to the limited employment opportunities and consists of isolated villages found along side of roads and on the lower valley sides.

    • Word count: 2698
  25. The Cairngorms, a mountain wilderness

    In some places the ground level raises over 500m in under a kilometre of land. There are many cliffs because of this; these make brilliant viewpoints. People and tourists try to make the best use of the Cairngorms they can. It is used so much to its full potential that people are actually damaging it. In Aviemore, there are many attractions. There is a cinema and theatre, these both play new and old films and plays. There is an up to date ice rink and artificial ski slope. There are lots of natural trails that people can take leisurely walks along.

    • Word count: 2327

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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