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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 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 Learn the correct definitions of all the specialist terms (eg percolation, throughflow, hydraulic radius, etc.
- 3 Learn a case study which shows how the theory relates to an actual example of a real river basin.
- 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 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 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 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 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 River valleys and river channels are not the same thing.
- 5 Remember that flooding can bring benefits as well as costs.
Top facts to use in your essay answers
- 1 Water covers approximately 71% of the Earth's surface
- 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 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 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 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
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