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Explain the Distribution of flooding and Droughts (15 marks)

Flooding is the most common environmental hazard worldwide. This is due to the
vast geographical distribution of river floodplains and low-lying coastal areas. A
flood is an overflow of a large amount of water beyond its normal limits, especially
over what is normally dry land.
This encompasses the simple notion that a flood involves an excess of water
compared with average water levels. Floods can be categorized as either river
floods or coastal floods. River floods are often atmospherically driven, caused by
excessive precipitation. They can also occur due to landslides falling into rivers, and
by dam or levee failures. Coastal surges are often due to storm surges caused by
tropical cyclones or tectonically produced tsunamis.
River floodplains and coastal areas are the most susceptible to flooding, however, it
is possible for flooding to occur in areas with unusually long periods of heavy
rainfall. Bangladesh is the most flood prone area in the world. Bangladesh is
vulnerable due to presence of a monsoon season which causes heavy rainfall. Other
factors which have contributed to flooding are deforestation in Nepal which has
caused soil erosion. This had led to the increased silt content in the rivers further
downstream. This decreases the carrying capacity of the rivers, causing the peak
flow of the river to increase.

A notable example is In April 1993 parts of the Midwest received as much as 10


times the normal amount of rainfall which swelled the Mississippi river and its 50
tributaries. The tributaries fill when the Mississippi river rises causing local floods of
small to medium magnitudes.
The water overwhelmed levees, erased towns and destroyed other infrastructures
such as bridges and airports. The flood killed 45 people, displaced 50,000 people
and inundated 13.5 million acres of land. The Mississippi river had been altered and
re-directed in the 1970s. Dams and levees were built to deal with the changes in the
river capacity. Federal government built dams and levees stayed intact during the
1993 flood, however, 70% of the constructions built by the private sector failed.
Another example Between July and October 1998 prolonged floods affected two
thirds of the country at their worst and lasted two and half months. Environmental
coincidences such as El Nino in 1997 and La Nina in 1998 caused an increased
rainfall during the monsoon season in Bangladesh and in the catchment areas of the
Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers in Nepal and India.
The floods peaked on the 14th September, by then more than 1,500 people had
died, 23 million people were homeless. The flooding was worsened by the
construction of impermeable surfaces such as roads, bridges and homes that
interfered with drainage patterns, increasing surface run off. Deforestation in Nepal
is also thought to have had an effect on the extent of the flooding due to increased
silt content in the river system, causing an increased amount of water to travel
downstream.

Because a drought is a prolonged period where the demand for water exceeds
supply (water stress) then droughts can technically happen anywhere in the world.
However, the most severe droughts tend to be located in certain areas of the world
Parts of the US and Mexico and Southern Africa also suffer from droughts. The
causes of droughts might not always be the same. North Africa and the Arabian
Peninsula are very arid, but because of the low population densities they don't
suffer from regular droughts. Australia normally suffers droughts because of
physical water scarcity (shortage of rain), whereas Brazil, India and China are more
likely to suffer from economic water scarcity.
Some droughts may only last one season, but some like the ongoing drought in East
African can last many years.