riversystems - River Systems and Causes of Flooding Page 1...

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This page last updated on 27-Mar-2006 EENS 204 Natural Disasters Tulane University Prof. Stephen A. Nelson Flooding Throughout history humans have found it desirable to construct cities along streams. Streams are sources of water for consumption, agriculture, and industry. Streams provide transportation routes, energy, and a means of disposal of wastes. Stream valleys offer a relatively flat area for construction. But, human populations that live along streams also have the disadvantage that the flow of water in streams is never constant. High amounts of water flowing in streams often leads to flooding, and flooding is one of the more common and costly types of natural disasters. A flood results when a stream runs out of its confines and submerges surrounding areas. z In less developed countries, humans are particularly sensitive to flood casualties because of high population density, absence of zoning regulations, lack of flood control, and lack of emergency response infrastructure and early warning systems. z Bangladesh is one of the most susceptible countries to flood disasters. About one half of the land area in Bangladesh is at an elevation of less than 8 meters above sea level. Up to 30% of the country has been covered with flood waters. In 1991 more 200,000 deaths resulted from flooding and associated tropical cyclones. z In industrialized countries the loss of life is usually lower because of flood control structures, zoning regulations that prevent the habitation of seriously vulnerable lands, and emergency preparedness. Still, property damage and disruption of life takes a great toll, and despite flood control structures and land use planning, floods still do occur. Causes of Flooding From a geological perspective, floods are a natural consequence of stream flow in a continually changing environment. Floods have been occurring throughout Earth history, and are expected so long as the water cycle continues to run. Streams receive most of their water input from precipitation, and the amount of precipitation falling in any given drainage basin varies from day to day, year to year, and century to century. The Role of Precipitation Weather patterns determine the amount and location of rain and snowfall. Unfortunately the amount and time over which precipitation occurs is not constant for any given area. Overall, the water cycle is a balanced system. Water flowing into one part of the cycle (like streams) is balanced by water flowing back to the ocean. But sometimes the amount flowing in to one area is greater than the capacity of the system to hold it within natural confines. The result is a Page 1 of 11 River Systems and Causes of Flooding 3/27/2006
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flood. Combinations of factors along with exceptional precipitation can also lead to flooding. For example, heavy snow melts, water saturated ground, unusually high tides, and drainage
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riversystems - River Systems and Causes of Flooding Page 1...

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