The River Rhine Case Study
The River Rhine rises in the Swiss Alps about 3,353 metres above sea
level and flows north, passing through or bordering Switzerland,
Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France, and the Netherlands and then
its mouth is located at the North Sea. The Rhine is usually at its
maximum volume during the seasons of spring and summer; this is due to
the fact that there is the melted water of snow and glaciers. In this
enquiry I am looking at the aspect of river flooding in the Rhine,
particularly in 1995. A river flood is when a river spills its banks
onto areas of land surrounding it that are not usually covered by
The main causes for river flooding are:
S Heavy rainfall - causes soil to become saturated and not allow
S Rapidly melting snow
S Dam bursts
S Soil saturation - this may cause a river to flood as the water would
not be able to infiltrate the soil and so will encourage overland
S Deforestation - this may cause flooding as there are no trees to
intercept the rain and so the soil will become saturated.
S Ploughing - this may cause flooding as it creates gullies which
water can flow down towards the river
S Urbanisation (extending built up areas) - this may cause a river to
flood as the concrete and tarmac that is laid over the soil send more
water to the river than to the fields which they replaced.
As you can gather from the above information the causes can be
categorised into human and natural effects. The flooding of the River
Rhine in past and recent dates has mainly been caused by human
infliction, with only few natural causes.
In early 1995, there was heavy rain over much of Europe and it lasted,
almost continuously, from November 1994 up until February 1995. The
ground quickly became saturated and any further rain was transferred
to rivers as overland flow.
Some people think that the effects of global warming have affected the
river flooding, as in the last 100 years:
S Average temperatures have risen by about 1 degree Celsius in
S Winter precipitation in the Rhine catchment has increased by 40%.
S Much of the Rhine's riverside marsh and floodplain, which was used
to hold back floodwater, has been replaced by farmland or building.
S Improved flood protection measures upstream cause the floodwater to
move downstream more quickly than it used to.
S The river has been involved in a straightening process due to
improved navigation for shipping; this means that the distance has
been reduced by 50km whereas before it was 1320km, so in turn this
means that water moves downstream more quickly.
S Urbanisation in the Rhine catchment area has also helped flooding
due to the fact that the concrete and...