Floods: Causes And Consequences Essay

3027 words - 12 pages

IntroductionWithin the conceptual framework of this research, I would like to elaborate on causes and consequences of floods. There are always floods somewhere in the world. They threat big communities with millions of people, their lives and properties. Big floods always draw international attention. In order to support my discussion about floods with concrete examples, I will talk about causes and consequences of flood using Mississippi River basin.The flood plainA river's flood plain is central to any discussion of floods. A broad, nearly flat landform consisting of stream-deposited sediment, the flood plain is inundated by flows in excess of channel capacity (that is, a flood). The flood plain is higher along the edge of the river, built up by deposition of sediment from water overflowing stream banks. As the water leaves the channel, it is abruptly slowed by the reduced gradient and friction of the flood plain. (Ward 1978)The deposition of sediment along the channel banks produces natural levees which appear as slightly higher ground between the river and its flood plain. The natural levee slopes, often imperceptibly, away from the river so that the lower and less well-drained portion of the flood plain often has standing water, known as a backswamp. The flood plain, including the back-swamp, is extremely important in the natural process of flooding. "If a flood is defined as flow in excess of channel capacity, then the flood plain's role is to store the excess flow until it can be accommodated by the channel." (Wundram 1993) Although some flood water evaporates, most of it flows directly back into the channel or rejoins the channel indirectly by groundwater flow. The flood plain is instrumental in flood control by storing - and slowing - excess water.Mississippi RiverIn 1993 the Mississippi River and its flood plain differed considerably from what members of DeSoto's expedition saw in 1539. Then the Mississippi meandered freely across its flood plain, uninhibited by levees and dams. The flood plain was largely forested and wetlands were common as were oxbow lakes created by shifting channels. Flood-plain ecosystems, especially wetlands, were home to an especially rich and diverse assemblage of plants and animals. Rich alluvial sediment and an abundance of water provided the basis for this wealth of resources. However, in 1993 the flood plain was intensely utilized for settlement and agriculture. Gone were most of the flood-plain forests and large portions of the backswamp were drained, giving way to extensive corn and soybean fields. (Tobin 1993)The federal government did not become involved in flood control efforts until the 1850s. "Extensive floods in 1849 and 1850 led Congress to appropriate funds to investigate flood control possibilities on the lower Mississippi." (Moore 1989) The study, which took more than a decade to complete, recommended a policy of using levees to confine the river, sparing the flood plain from further flooding....

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