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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.

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  1. Identify and explain how human intervention in the drainage basin can increase the risk of flood

    These increases could be caused by the removal of topsoil for construction and compacting the ground with heavy machinery, building roads which increase the impermeable surface area. Also building drains and sewers which create a rapid means of transport for the water to the river channel and the straightening of rivers and lining them with concrete to enable building plans to succeed. The final reason can also lead the faster delivery of water downstream of the urban area increasing the flood risk in those areas. Urbanization alters the shape of the storm hydrograph, reducing lag time and increasing peak discharge.

    • Word count: 1256
  2. Flooding Case Study: LEDC - Bangladesh.

    The other major source of flooding is down to the storm surge floods, cyclonic. These are caused by cyclones and hurricanes entering the Bay of Bengal. The great storm surges which result destroy everything in their path. They have built embankments to prevent the storm surges, but this has caused drainage congestion. The embankments have prevented the back flow of floodwater into the river. In this way, embankments have sometimes led to the increase siltation of channels, making the flooding worse. Benefits of the floods Although the floods cause devastation to Bangladesh it provides many benefits that can't be overlooked.

    • Word count: 1429
  3. River Management Case Study on The Mississippi.

    The Mississippi is very unique as the management is present all along its 3800km path, which for a river of that size is very rare. The majority of the management is for protection. There are many settlements along the course of the river that need protection, as the Mississippi is a very dangerous river when flooding. When settlement began to grow people we attracted to the fertile flood plains of the Mississippi so along its course many densely pack settlements began to grow.

    • Word count: 1875
  4. The river Gwaun: Investigating how the course of the river changes from the source to the mouth.

    Site 3 - Llanychaer Site 3 was situated next to a small village. The river was a lot wider and deeper than in site 2. The riverbanks were not steep but there was a (large) overhang in some parts. Bed load was less frequent than in site 2 but there was some more large and angular rocks. Site 4 - Lower Fishguard This is in the middle of a residential area with access to ferries. It is at the mouth of the river and is a lot wider than any of the other sites.

    • Word count: 4757
  5. The changing landforms down a river's long profile

    * Bedload - larger chunks of material are moved along the river bed by saltation and traction. The largest piece of material a river can transport is its competence. Deposition: This is where the material transported is dropped due to a fall in velocity or if the river has reached its capacity. All the above three processes will vary down the long profile with many factors such as, rock type, long term climate change, isostatic change and human intervention. They also affect the velocity, discharge and hydraulic radius. Trends down the long profile: As you move down a rivers course all the processes above will change in some way.

    • Word count: 1325
  6. 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
  7. Main features and landforms of glacial erosion.

    Crag and tail: A crag and tail is a larger rock mass than a Roche moutonnee. Like a Roche moutonnee, it is formed from a section of rock that was more resistant than its surroundings. On the lee side of the resistant rock, the bed rock was protected from the erosional power of the glacier. The volcanic rocks on which Edinburgh Castle (Scotland) is built provided protection against the erosion from an advancing glacier and Royal Mile, the main street in Edinburgh, extends along the gently downward sloping lee slope, or tail. Chatter Marks - Marks caused when rocks stuck in the base of the ice have removed thin flakes or chips from the bedrock surface.

    • Word count: 1281
  8. Erosion and Deposition takes place at distinctive locations. Discuss.

    Deposition is a landform formed from the deposition of weathered and eroded surface materials. On occasion, these deposits can be compressed, altered by pressure, heat and chemical processes to become sedimentary rocks. This includes landforms with some of the following geomorphic features: beaches, deltas, floodplains, and glacial moraines. When the velocity of a river begins to fall, it has less energy and so no longer has the competence or capacity to carry its entire load. So, starting with the largest particles, material begins to be deposited. Deposition occurs for a variety of different reasons.

    • Word count: 1196
  9. How do river characteristics vary downstream?

    Taking these measurements at each site gives data on the average depth of the river along its course, and will show whether the distance from the source affects the rivers depth. 2. Take the tape measure across the width of the river, from where the water touches the bank and take a measurement. As with the depth data, taking width measurements of the River Lyd will help to answer our investigation title, while combining the width with the av. depth will make it possible to calculate the wetted perimeter.

    • Word count: 1591
  10. Three Gorges Dam

    high and 1,983 metres (6500 feet) broad, with a reservoir that will fill a level of 175 metres above sea level.1 The 17-year construction of the dam is estimated to use 10.8 million tons of cement, 1.9 million tons of rolled steel, and 1.6 tons of timber, costing a total of approximately $900 billion yuan.2 Since then, construction has been undertaken for the Three Gorges dam. But many issues have been raised concerning the many aspects of the project. As a Chinese journalist, Dai Qing, calls it, "the Three Gorges dam is the most environmentally and socially destructive project in the world."3 In Terms of Money The World Bank and the U.S.

    • Word count: 1383
  11. In what ways and for what reasons do the landforms of upland glaciated regions differ from those of lowland glaciated regions?

    Although a smooth valley cross-profile is created, the dominant feature of the long profile of a glaciated valley is its irregularity. When the glacier was present, it ruthlessly exploited weaknesses within rocks, such as joints, and variations in resistance between one band of rock and another as it moved down the valley. Also, ablation which is loss of ice due to evaporation and melting, increases down glacier from the fern line, where it is nil, to the glacier snout, at the bottom end, where it is at a maximum.

    • Word count: 992
  12. Investigating the river Caerfanell

    I chose three sites on the river Caerfanell, to perform my methods. Site 1 � Blaen - y- Glynn Site 2 � Pont blaen y Glyn - The Valley Site 3 �By the Talybont reservoir. These sites are situated on the location maps later in my project. My main focus of these coursework is to answer the following question... "Is there a correlation between velocity, gradient, and channel shape?" I intend to answer this question through a series of key questions.

    • Word count: 5241
  13. Describe and Explain the Factors that Influence the Flood Hydrograph, with particular reference to Rural and Urbanised Drainage Basins.

    Figure 2 shows the hydrological processes taking place in a drainage basin, with its outputs, inputs, stores and processes. (On separate sheet). The river flow out of the drainage basin is determined by the amount of precipitation, the losses in evaporation and Evapotranspiration and the gains or losses from the storage areas: surface storage, soil moisture and groundwater storage. Using climate, it is possible to construct a water budget graph. Figure 3 (on a separate sheet) shows water budget graphs for a. Birmingham, UK and b. Athens, Greece. This graph lest us know more about the processes that work in the drainage basin and it also allows us to compare different countries, I have used the examples of UK and Greece.

    • Word count: 1193
  14. Investigate change in river characteristics down stream.

    Maps of area studied These are maps of the areas I studied for my geography field coursework. We were based here at the conservation center in High Beach. This is where we would have done our river study but the actual river was dried out and lacking in water. This area is mainly woodland. This map locates sites one and two. Site one is located near the school and site two is located near the train line. This map locates site three; it is on the riverside walk of the River Roding. It is based near a housing area.

    • Word count: 1654
  15. To investigate the downstream changes of pollution in the river Cray.

    * When a river is polluted there will be more bacteria within it. As bacteria are organisms, they need oxygen to survive. This will therefore mean that the more pollution there is, the more bacteria there will also be and so the less oxygen there will be available as it will be used by the bacteria. The amount of oxygen will be related to the temperature of the river also, as the amount of oxygen able to dissolve in water, decreases with increasing temperature. * The biotic index relates to the different types of invertebrate that are present in the river.

    • Word count: 1804
  16. 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
  17. River course project.

    (Hypothesis 1) Depth The width of the channel was taken and divided into six. The depth was measured at five different intervals using a 1 metre ruler. (Hypothesis 3) Velocity Measuring the Velocity (below) The width of the channel was taken and divided into six. The flow meter was two-thirds of the way down and timed 30 seconds to see how many revolutions the impeller turned in order to work out the velocity of the river using a flow chart.

    • Word count: 874
  18. Introduction to study of the River Shuttle.

    As a way of testing significant differences in the channel characteristics as we moved down stream we measured the depth, width and amount of water of the river channel. Site one. Site one is situated extremely close to the source of the river shuttle. The compass direction of this site is 160 degrees south. Although surrounded by grass land, this section of the river has a moderate amount of pollution due to near by building work. Site two. This section of the river is situated in a woodland area and extremely close to residential housing.

    • Word count: 1004
  19. 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
  20. 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
  21. River channel processes.

    decreases GRADIENT decreases TURBULENCE decreases HYDRAULIC RADIUS increases HYDRAULIC RADIUS - cross sectional area Wetted perimeter Explains how energy is loss in the river through its friction with the bed and the banks. High values show efficiency (closer to the semi-circular shape.) low values show a poor efficiency. RIVER LANDFORMS POTHOLES - the eddy currents formed in a river can result in particles being trapped in them. As they move in a circular motion they begin to wear in depression to the bed, these are called potholes.

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  22. Investigate how the velocity of rivers changes.

    These hillsides are known as interlocking spurs and they restrict the view up or down the valley. The river is now entering its middle course. The midd le course of the river Rhymney is located in Ystrad Mynach. During the Middle course of the river, the river is eroding laterally as well as vertically. During it's Middle course the river begins to Meander slightly at Trethomas. When a river reaches a Meander most water is directed towards the outer bend. This will reduce friction and increase the velocity of the river at this point. The river will therefore have more energy to transport material in suspension.

    • Word count: 4635
  23. 'To what extent does the River Lyn conform to the Bradshaw model of River characteristics?'

    Changes have been made nearer the mouth of the River Lyn due to this. The Bradshaw model of River characteristics. This is what I will be comparing the River Lyn with to see, 'to what extent does the River Lyn conform with the Bradshaw model of River characteristics?' Fig. 1 Annotated sketch maps of location. Hypothesis Fig. 4 River channel characteristics Hypothesis. As you go down stream it will... Water depth (and channel depth) Increase, due to erosion, surface runoff into River, through flow Occupied channel (And water) width Increase, due to erosion, tributaries joining on to it, surface runoff into River, through flow Wetted perimeter Increase, due to erosion, tributaries joining on to

    • Word count: 4529
  24. Find which factor has the greatest effect on deciding the planform of the River Arrow in Herefordshire, by studying slope angle and discharge amongst other varying elements.

    The velocity of a river is affected by three main things, channel roughness, channel shape and gradient. Channel shape can be described by the hydraulic radius of the water cross section, and is defined as the area of water per unit of channel water contact. The discharge of a river is dependant on the velocity of the river and the size of the channel at that point. The river's velocity should increase as the discharge rises. The higher the velocity of a river, the more energy it has, and is therefore able to carry larger particles. A pattern should become apparent when comparing the velocity and discharge readings.

    • Word count: 1500
  25. Soil Erosion.

    > The hydrology of river systems is affected, as there is less infiltration and more runoff and therefore reducing the amount of water in the soil for new vegetation to use next season. Seeds struggle to germinate in bare exposed soil. > Dams become silted up and there storage capacity is reduced. > Floods become an increased hazard, because of the increased runoff. Causes: > Overgrazing causes the destruction of plant cover, which would otherwise protect the soil; therefore instead of the rain soaking through the soil, it washes it away.

    • Word count: 513

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