Porcupyn's Blog

July 9, 2016

Drainage basins … and more

Filed under: Geography,Travel — Porcupyn @ 8:02 pm

I had not really paid much attention to this statistic before a friend posted about it on his social media. My trivia information was previously limited only to the length of rivers and, to a very limited extent, the discharge. And even what I knew about the discharge turned out to be incorrect for the most part! And when I started googling, I learned more than I had ever hoped to learn. So, here is a summary of what I found out – you are welcome to follow the links and learn more!

A drainage basin is the area of land from where all precipitation drains to a common destination. For example, the drainage basin of a river is all of the land from where it collects its water from (which obviously comes from the skies as precipitation, i.e., rainfall or snow). What is weird, and this is something I was unaware of, is that folks in USA refer to this as the watershed as well (and having lived in the USA for nearly three decades, this was what I was used to as well). However, it appears that outside of the USA, the watershed refers to the perimeter of this drainage basin, not the basin itself.

What was really surprising for me was how the rivers of the world get ranked based on length, water discharge and drainage/catchment basin size. Without further ado, here are the rankings (by river):

By drainage basin:

  • Amazon
  • Congo
  • Nile

By length:

  • Nile
  • Amazon
  • Yangtze

By discharge volume:

  • Amazon
  • Congo
  • Ganga-Brahmaputra-Padma (I don’t know why/when Padma got renamed as Meghna, or have I been mistaken all along? Upon further googling, it appears that Padma becomes Meghna!)

It was a revelation that the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Padma river was number three in the world in terms of discharge volume and that Nile and Missouri-Mississippi were nowhere among the top rivers. I had read about the Missouri-Mississippi being among the longest rivers, but it didn’t make the top five. So now, I wonder how the lengths are/were calculated – were the lengths being combined when they counted it as one of the top three? One thing that strikes me as unfair is how the rivers are named. I don’t recall reading about the Parana river in Geography (maybe because we learned of it as Rio de la Plata). However, it appears to be the longest river in South America behind the Amazon. But what is weird is that it drains into the Rio de la Plata, which is a runt of a river – just 290 km in length! It would be more correct, in my opinion, for the longest river to keep its name throughout (though this might result in the Ganga being renamed as Yamuna past Allahabad!!).

Another interesting way to rank the rivers would be by depth (another parameter I had not thought of previously, until I read about the Congo being the deepest river). So, here are the rivers ranked by depth (well, I stopped after Congo as it appears that this is not a verified figure for rivers and even for Congo, it does not sustain this depth for a long time):

  • Congo

Fast fact: Did you know that the flow of the Amazon is so powerful that no bridges can be built across it?

Trivia question: Which river flows through the most capitals (of countries)?

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