Mental Floss

See a River’s Path Change Over 30 Years

Shaunacy Ferro
GIF by Zoltan Sylvester
GIF by Zoltan Sylvester / GIF by Zoltan Sylvester

Thanks to satellite imagery, it’s easier than ever to see how the Earth is changing over time. The Ucayali River in Peru is changing its course at an especially rapid pace, and Zoltan Sylvester, a sedimentary biologist who blogs at Hindered Settling, used Google Earth Engine and data from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Landsat program to put together this neat encapsulation of how the river has changed since 1985. 

For fluvial geomorphology nerds, here’s his explanation of what you’re seeing: 

This scene also comes from the Ucayali River (you can view it in Google Earth Engine over here) and it is a nice example of how both neck cutoffs and chute cutoffs form. First a neck cutoff takes place that affects the tight bend in the right side of the image; this is followed by a chute cutoff immediately downstream of the neck cutoff location, as the new course of the river happens to align well with a pre-existing chute channel. The third bend in the upper left corner shows some well-developed counter-point-bar deposits. There is one frame in the movie for each year from 1985 to 2013, with a few years missing (due to low quality of the data).

[h/t FlowingData]