Fluvial Processes1

Fluvial Processes1 - Fluvial 1:1 Introduction to...

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Fluvial 1:1 Introduction to Geomorphology Historical Development Graded rivers Cycle of erosion Force and Resistance Fluvial processes Running Water Stream Energy Geomorphology is the study of landforms and the processes that shape them. What processes are acting on the earth's surface and how do they affect the surface materials to create distinct forms? Some geomorphological questions– How do rivers modify the landscape? Why is one coastline different from another? How were the playa lakes near Lubbock formed? Geographers, geologists and engineers all study geomorphology. This combination of disciplines is healthy because each approaches the topic from a somewhat different point of view. In the next few weeks we will look at geomorphology from a variety of perspectives, such as coasts and glaciers, but we will start with streams and how they modify the landscape. Fluvial Geomorphology deals with the way in which streams shape the landscape. ( Fluvius is Latin for "river.") The force of running water is the source of most of the erosion on the earth's surface. Historical Development (with a heavy US bias) Geomorphology has been studied for a long time (Aristotle, da Vinci, others) but it has developed most strongly since the last half of the 1800's. At that time, the U.S. government wanted to know the geography of the West, which was largely unknown. So expeditions were sent to map the West, find railroad routes and report on the resources. The explorers of the Western Surveys took a broad view of their mission and produced impressive scientific reports on the areas through which they traveled. The best known of these explorers is John Wesley Powell . He was an Army major who lost one arm in the Civil War and was mostly self taught as a scientist. He lead the first boat trip down the Colorado River in 1869 through the Grand Canyon. He reported on the various Indian groups in the Southwest and later
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Fluvial 1:2 suggested ways to develop the arid West to minimize the problems associated with too little water (of course, he was mostly ignored). Powell later led the U.S. Geological Survey and Bureau of Indian Affairs. What made the West so valuable to the study of geomorphology was the way in which the landscape could be seen. In the Eastern U.S. and in Europe, vegetation covers most of the surface, so it is hard to see the land beneath. In the West, there is much less vegetation, making the ground more visible and in many places, like the Grand Canyon, the rivers have cut through rock layers which represent a large chunk of the earth's history. Powell was able to see first hand the action of the Colorado River as it eroded its bed. This led him to introduce the idea of base level - the lowest level an area can be eroded. Sea level is the ultimate base level, but local base levels also occur. Powell made important contributions to theory, but he also organized an outstanding group of earth scientists to work with him. One was Grove Karl Gilbert . More than anyone else, Gilbert established the scientific framework for
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This document was uploaded on 10/27/2011 for the course GEOG 1401 at Texas Tech.

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Fluvial Processes1 - Fluvial 1:1 Introduction to...

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