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Landforms Located Along the River Tees, County Durham

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Landforms Located Along the River Tees, County Durham

The River Tees is not necessarily one of the most famous rivers in the
United Kingdom, but in its relatively short passage to its mouth from
its source in the marshy moors of the Pennine Hills, the river
produces a diverse array of landforms, which vary as it progresses
downstream through its drainage basin. Beginning in a saturated moor
as a mere trickle of water over 600m above sea level, it emerges
progressively larger, producing waterfalls, gorges and V-shaped
valleys with interlocking spurs in its upper course, meanders and
oxbow lakes in the middle course and flood plains, levees and deltas
as it reaches its mouth.

Text Box: In the upper course of the River Tees, the steep gradient of
the land results in vertical erosion, mainly through abrasion and
hydraulic action to be the dominant process occurring with the river
at this stage. The Tees starts from its source in a saturated moor in
the Pennine Hills. The abundant water trickles downwards, due to the
high gravitational potential energy it possesses, which can be
converted to kinetic energy due to the steep gradient. These mere
trickles of water develop into the River Tees. Various tributaries add
to the volume of water and the river uses its abundant kinetic energy
to vertically erode away at the bed and banks, with its steep gradient
encourages erosion vertically through abrasion and hydraulic action.
Weathering of the valley sides adds material to the river, helping to
erode the bed and banks even further through the sandpapering effect
of abrasion. Interlocking spurs remain due to erosion, protruding
resistant rock from the valley sides, around which the river is forced
to wind.

Text Box:

Waterfalls and rapids are other landforms that define the upper course
of the Tees, both brought about by the processes assisting vertical
erosion. The Tees flows over layers of Whin Sill, hard resistant rock
which is mounted upon layers of sandstone, limestone and shale which
are comparatively soft and easily eroded away by the river. Rapids can
be seen to form when layers of Whin sill and soft rock are located
together flatly and thinly, with the water being exposed to only some
softer rock which is eroded away. These rapids can eventually develop
into waterfalls as the softer rock is eroded away leaving a
precipitous vertical edge, with Whin Sill being layered on top of the
softer rock. The undercutting of the soft rock results in the collapse
of hard, resistant rock. This process repeats constantly, with the
retreating waterfall forming a gorge. Vertical erosion plays an
evident part in defining the features of the upper course of the Tees.

Text Box:

The middle course of the Tees comprises of less of the versatility
seen in the upper course, with the most recognizable features in the
landscape being highly similar. With the middle course, the gradient
of the land decreases dramatically and becomes much flatter. This
factor results in the abrupt conversion of potential energy held by
the river into kinetic energy. Combined with the increased water
received from tributaries and a widened smoother channel and
relatively low wetted perimeter compared with the volume of water
(which was not present in the upper course), the river has great
amounts of kinetic energy held within it and less friction in a flat
landscape. Therefore the fast flowing current begins to erode the
banks of the river laterally, employing the processes of abrasion and
hydraulic action to cut away at the banks. The fastest current, or
Thalweg, flows naturally on the outside of the river when it bends and
the slower current flows on the inside of the river when it bends.
This results in processes of erosion dominating on the outside of the
river and deposition on the inside. Meander bends develop from theses
processes which migrate sideways and downstream due to the erosion and
deposition occurring in the river. Landforms at the meanders include
slip off slopes on the inside of the bend with point bar deposits. On
the outside bank, undercutting of the bank forms slight river cliffs
which could collapse with persistent erosion.

Text Box:

Meanders may also migrate to form oxbow lakes, with the processes of
erosion narrows the neck of meander which can be breached at a time of
flood, when excess water is discharge into a river. A new straighter
course can then be followed by the river, leaving an abandoned meander
which eventually dries up leaving a meander scar with deposited
material from the stagnant water at its bottom. Lateral erosion can be
seen to cause these meanders and oxbow lake features which change the
landscape of the rivers middle course.

The dominant river processes once again changes in the lower course of
the river, where the gradient becomes much flatter and the water of
the river meets a large and relatively still body of water. The river
contains far less energy at the lower course with there being no
gravitational potential energy to convert into kinetic energy at the
flat lower course of thText Box: e Tees. Floodplains and levees are
formed as water bursts the channel and layers of silt deposits are
left to from a flat floodplain. Due to friction and lack of energy,
the heaviest and coarsest deposits are dropped closer to the banks,
building up a natural embankment called a levee. Higher rates of
deposition occur at the estuary upon

Text Box:

meeting the sea. As the Tees has not the energy in its flow to hold
material in suspension any longer, these materials are deposited at
the estuary forming large flats of sand. At the lower course, a delta
s formed at the Tees with deposits blocking the main channel out to
the sea, causing the river to divide into several distributaries. Over
time, constant deposition leads to the expansion of the delta and the
creation of marshy land. The amount of material deposited is too great
to be taken away by the current and so a delta is created at the
mouth. Deposition is the key process that causes the formation of
there landforms in the lower course.

Changes in river energy result in changes in the dominant processes of
the rive which in turn affects the way the landscape is shaped and
what landforms are found at each stage of the rivers course. The high
amounts of potential energy and steep gradient meant that landforms
such as waterfalls and V-shaped valleys were formed by the processes
of abrasion and hydraulic action acting vertically in vertical
erosion. The decrease in gradient and increase in river energy levels
through increased water and proportionally less wetted perimeter to
volume, meant that the high amount of kinetic energy were used to
erode thorough abrasion and hydraulic action laterally forming
meanders with river cliffs and oxbow lakes. In the lower course the
flat gradient and lack of energy means that any material transported
by the river is deposited which creates estuaries, levees and deltas.
It is clear that changes in the profile can have a significant impact
of the landforms found at each stage of the rivers course.

In conclusion the landforms found at each stage of the river are of
great variety, but can be rationalized by considering the effect the
profile has on the energy levels and dominant processes that occur in
the river. The high gradient at the upper course encourages vertical
erosion, with the less steep middle course has an abundance of kinetic
energy to erode laterally. The lower course has relatively little
kinetic energy which means that deposition is the major process which
occurs. It is understandable that these processes define the landforms
at each stage of the rivers course, and are responsible for the great
versatility seen in the landscape as the river progresses.

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MLA Citation:
"Landforms Located Along the River Tees, County Durham." 18 Apr 2014

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