Paper Example on Hydrologic System

8 pages
1948 words
Sewanee University of the South
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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The hydrologic system influence the geology of rivers, which leads to the three major river processes. The processes include erosion, transportation, and deposition. When the process happens, a lot of energy is utilized by the river; is generated from the water flowing its valley. The paper shall focus on the river process, the actions involved and landforms that result from these activities.

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Erosion is the breakdown of materials by a mechanism or agent and in our case erosion occurs in rivers through the actions of water along its channel. The erosion occurs on the canal and the material it transports. Some of the material transported and eroded include rocks which are carried to the river bank for depositing (Vijay 4). The erosion on the channel of the river occurs vertically and literary leading to its expansion in depth and width. Rivers can be classified into various stages depending on the part of its course that experiences erosion. For instance, there are upper stage rivers whose wearing off activities are more vertical than horizontal, the middle and lower stages of the river which increase the degree of vertical and horizontal erosion. The last two steps make the river wider and longer. There are several processes involved during the erosion of the river banks and bed. The actions include hydraulic action, abrasion, corrosion, and solution.

Hydraulic action works by breaking the rocks along the river channel and on the river bed. The force pushes water into the cracks in these places, the harder it hits the crevices the looser they become. These activities increase the chance of a rock particle fall off the bigger rock making these parts to collapse (Vijay 6). The action is stronger on waterfalls and rapids by working on the weaker lines located on the joints, which increases the chance of collapsing the river course. Water has a degree of viscosity that enables it to stick to the surfaces it flows upon, causing a friction force that enhances erosion. The outcome is sand and gravel due to the shear stress exerted on the river channel surfaces.

Abrasion is another force that facilitates erosion process, by promoting vertical action which makes the river deeper (Vijay 6). The effects of abrasion act by hauling and colliding on the rock pieces among other materials on the river bed and banks. The rock pieces break into smaller particles that are transported by the river as they facilitate the abrasion activities. The larger cuts from the abrasion events have the strongest erosion force, while the smaller particles make the eroded surfaces smoother. They make the surfaces smoother by eroding the protruding layers, which are also part of abrasion. Rivers with a hard bedrock can be destroyed effectively by abrasion activities. When the water forces are powerful, the abrasion forces carry sand and silt alongside other material that facilitates erosion. When the forces are weak especially during the dry season, the abrasion forces are weak. For this reason, particles cannot be carried by the river to facilitate erosion.

Corrosion which also referred to as the solution process is another action that involves chemical processes that include the dissolving of carbon iv oxide in the river, to form a weak acid that dissolves rocks. The method is effective where the river channel has limestone and chalk otherwise it has no effect on other kinds of stones (Vijay 7). Chalk and limestones have carbonate elements which when reacted with acid since they are basic, they form soluble elements. However, it should be noted that neutral water is acidic since its absorbs and dissolves calcium carbonate. It occurs when water absorbs extra oxygen from water and forming the weak acid mentioned above.

Attrition is the fourth type of action that contributes to erosion on the river particles. In this method, pieces of eroded particles grind against each other and break into smaller particles. The smaller fragments lead to the development of larger pieces and smoother pebbles (Vijay 7). The stones are formed from the breaking material when they become round and smoother on their edges. In some cases, they break into even finer particles such as silt which is settled on the bed of the river. However, this kind of action do not lead to the expansion of the river in any dimension but only breaks the particles in it.

As the erosion continues along the river course, various landforms are formed, for instance, the interlocking spurs, the waterfall, and V-shaped valleys are formed on the upper course of the river channel. Meanders and ox-bow lakes are formed in the middles course of the river. On the lower course of the river, a flood plain can be formed. Interlocking spurs are made of hard rocks which cannot be eroded quickly (Vijay 10). For this reason, the water has to flow in a direction with softer rock and hence forming alternating spurs which assume an interlocking appearance. The waterfall is formed alongside gorges through vertical erosion but towards its source. The erosion attacks the valley section with softer rocks which supporting the harder rocks. This action lead to erosion of the lower soft rock much faster than the one on top, making the land along the course of the river lower and with time the waterfall is formed. V-shaped valleys are also formed through lateral and vertical erosion (Vijay 11). Meanders are the bends formed by the river as moves along the valley and affect the velocity of water slip off slope is a feature formed along the meandering streams. The meanders are formed through lateral erosion by flowing water. When the water flows along one side of a bend, it flows to the different region and the process is repeated. A sequence of this flow leads to meandering of the river channel.

The flood plains are formed when there is a deposition of the river flood. The materials transported by the river have varying size; the bigger loads are deposited first as the river floods. When the river is repeatedly flooded with this material and forced to deposit, the outcome is the formation of a floodplain (Vijay 12). Deltas form when River join with the sea, formed by deposition of too much load it carries due to the increased velocity at this point of the river. At this point, the sea is not flowing, and the river velocity is decreased which forces it to deposit its load at its mouth. The accumulation of these deposits leads to the formation of a new landform which is the delta. The river may also form tributaries before meeting the sea. The tributaries will also result in decreased velocity and deposition of a further load. The deltas are also formed through such mechanism. However, a delta cannot stand alone once established. The river has to feed it with additional loads to make it stable regularly.


During the transport along the river channel apart from water the rest of the materials are referred to as load (Wright 857). The river transport starts when friction has stopped, and materials have become loose and light due to the erosion activities. Suspension, traction, solution, and saltation are the means used to transport the load along the river channel.

Suspension method applies when the lighter materials, for instance, silt or clay soil are brought to the surface through a turbulence on the river which is the transported by the river. Different forms of turbulence carry different volumes of suspended materials. For instance, the faster-moving turbulence leads to hold more suspended material as revealed by the river channel towards the mouth of the river (Wright 859). The suspensions are sometimes called wash loads and are typically found in the river bed. The suspensions are so light and carried by the water as they cannot dissolve. For this reason, they can be mixed and easily separated or distinguished. For instance, mud and sand or silt. The suspensions are collected along the river channel and transported. The larger the load, the easier to accumulate more load and transport.

Solution happens when materials are dissolved in the river and transported along the river channel. Chalk and limestone are the material that can be dissolved in acidic water and carried in solution form (Wright 859). The dissolved materials are also referred to as load in solution which is carried along the river channel. The dissolving of these rocks happens in a very slow process and unnoticeable. Over time this actions dissolves all the soluble materials along the channel of the river. This action allows the stream to expand both vertically and horizontally.

Saltation is another process that facilitates transportation in the river by dragging the suspended material using the forces created by the flowing water. Some of these materials are pebbles and shingles which are carried by rolling or saltating along the river channel (Wright 859). The destructive forces acting on the water improves the effect of rolling and saltating in propelling the load along the river. They may also be carried along the river bed, especially the materials that are heavy to float or suspend in the water. Larger materials require greater force to move, which is promoted by the river when there is a lot of water which increases velocity. When the volume of water drops, the speed will also decline which will stop the dragging of heavy loads. If the similar circumstances persist, even lighter materials such as sand and pebbles may be dropped on the river bed. When the river regains energy, more load is picked up by the water that also facilities the activities of eroding the river channel. This fluctuating forces that lead to irregular dropping and carrying of material as the river flows, resulting in the formation of various landforms. Some of the landforms include the interlocking spurs.

The interlocking spurs are formed by two hills which alternate along the river valley (Vijay 20). The materials carried vary concerning size and the heaviest such as boulders are dragged along the bed while the lightest such as silt are suspended during the movement of water along the river. Also on the interlocking spurs, the water volume is not high, but the velocity is high. This condition facilitates the transportation of materials along the river channel. However, the Spurs cannot be eroded efficiently at this point, and the water has to round the alternating spurs.

The nature of river channels is vital in facilitating the transportation activities of the river. River banks and bed are the main features of a river channel, which has different shapes. The channel of the river is not always smooth, and the ruggedness slows the flow of water. The ruggedness increases the frictions between the water and the load (Vijay 13). The obstacles that are deposited or those that cannot move from the river bed also traps other materials that reduce the speed and transportation of these materials. The turbulence that is created by the rapid flow of water enables the river to carry loads from its bed downstream. Steeper river channels followed by a depression have a high velocity which leads to faster flow or the river and subsequently carrying more weight along the canal.

Various factors affect the steepness of a river valley and it transportation power. The climatic condition that is signified by a lot of precipitation erodes the banks and increases the transport powers of a river (Wright 856). More water will increase the turbulence which will break the load into smaller materials that can easily be carried. Also, hard rocks which cannot be eroded quickly affects the steepness of a river which interns affects the velocity of water flowing in a river.


Once the erosion activities through various methods have been achieved, it is also transported by different mean...

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