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The Upper Course of a River

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1 The Upper Course of a River
These icons indicate that teacher’s notes or useful web addresses are available in the Notes Page. This icon indicates the slide contains activities created in Flash. These activities are not editable. For more detailed instructions, see the Getting Started presentation. 1 of 26 © Boardworks Ltd 2005

2 What are the main processes that operate in the upper course?
What landforms occur in the upper course of a river? How are the landforms created? Learning objectives

3 Processes of river erosion
Erosion is the wearing away of the land. Study this photo. How do you think this river can erode the landscape?

4 Processes of river erosion
Hydraulic action Attrition Corrosion Abrasion

5 Definitions Hydraulic Action
This process involves the force of water against the bed and banks. Abrasion/Corrasion This is the process by which the bed and banks are worn down by the river’s load. The river throws these particles against the bed and banks, sometimes at high velocity. Attrition Material (the load) carried by the river bump into each other and so are smoothed and broken down into smaller particles. Corrosion This is the chemical action of river water. The acids in the water slowly dissolve the bed and the banks.

6 Do you know your processes of erosion?

7 What are the main processes that operate in the upper course?
What landforms occur in the upper course of a river? How are the landforms created? Learning objectives

8 Landforms in the upper course
V-shaped valleys and interlocking spurs Rapids Waterfalls river disappears from view hidden by this spur of land River Conwy (near Mignant Moor)

9 What are the main processes that operate in the upper course?
What landforms occur in the upper course of a river? How are the landforms created? Learning objectives

10 Why do V-shaped valleys occur?

11 Interlocking spurs In the upper course the river does not have a huge amount of energy to erode as it does not have a high discharge and it has to transport large pieces of sediment. When the river meets areas of harder rock that are difficult to erode it winds around them. A series of hills form on either side of the river called spurs. As the river flows around these hills they become interlocked. So, a series of interlocking spurs are often found in the upper course of a river valley.

12 Techniques! – 1. Fieldsketching….
Produce an annotated fieldsketch to show that this is part of an upland river valley.

13 2. OS Maps Identify v-shaped valleys and spurs of land.

14 Waterfalls! Seljalandsfoss, SW Iceland

15 Waterfall formation

16 Waterfalls

17 How does a waterfall form?
Rearrange the stages of formation into the correct order:

18 Your labels should contain detailed explanations!
Waterfalls Draw and annotate a diagram to explain the formation of a waterfall. Suggested labels: More resistant rock Less resistant rock Plunge Pool Unsupported rock Fallen rocks Gorge Your labels should contain detailed explanations!

19 An example of a waterfall – Gulfoss, Iceland

20 Gulfoss Gulfoss is located in Southwest Iceland on the Huita River.
Gulfoss has two ‘steps’ to its waterfall. These steps are made by basalt lava while the rocks between these layers are softer, sedimentary rocks. Its gorge is 70m deep and 3 km long!

21 The geology of Gulfoss is more complex!
grey basalt sandstone mudstone tillite grey basalt conglomerate plunge pool Which of these different rocks do you think is the most resistant?

22 What are rapids and how do they form?
Rapids are part of a river where the water is relatively shallow but the flow of the water is quite fast and turbulent as the water descends over a series of small steps. River Rhône Rapids are formed due to a sudden steepening of the stream gradient, but without a sufficient break in slope to form a waterfall, or from the river flowing over a series of thin layers of hard and soft rock.

23 Rapids

24 Examination question Study the map of a river valley below: X Y
Height (m) X Y X Y Sketch a cross-section of the river valley from X to Y. Label two features of this river valley. State at what stage of a river’s course you would expect to find this type of valley. Give reasons for your answer.

25 What do you know about upland river valleys?

26 Key ideas Erosion is the main process operating in the upper course of a river. The direction of erosion is vertical. There are four main types of erosion – hydraulic action, attrition, abrasion and corrosion. Valleys are v-shaped with interlocking spurs. Waterfalls are formed where a river meets a band of less resistant rock. Plunge pools and gorges are features associated with the formation of waterfalls. Rapids are smaller scale features formed where finer bands of varying resistance of rock are found.


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