Physical Geography Case Studies

A set of revision cards to help learning case studies. 


Causes of Flooding - South Asia, 2007

Parts of south Asia flood most years due to:

  • Monsoon Climate (80% of rain in 4 months)
  • Low-lying land (e.g. in Bangladesh, 90% of land is less than 10m above sea level)
  • Melting snow and ice from the Himalyas

Physical Factors:

  • Monsoon after a very dry, early summer.
  • Heavy and prolonged rainfall
  • Peak discharges of two rivers (Ganges and Brahmaputra) coincided.

Human Factors:

  • Deforestation in Nepal and the Himalayas.
  • Growth of urban areas (due to migration)
  • Collapse of old earth dams.
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Impacts of Flooding - South Asia, 2007

Social Impacts:

  • 2,000 died (reluctance to evacuate, can't swim, poor transport links)
  • Polluted wells caused 100,000 to catch water-borne diseases.
  • 25 million homeless
  • 112,000 houses destroyed in India (porous mud bricks became saturated).
  • Dhaka (capital of Bangladesh) was inundated.
  • 4,000 schools affected, 44 totally destroyed.

Economic Impacts:

  • US $1 billion.
  • Factories closed (loss of raw materials) - many poor became unemployed.
  • Loss of livestock (reliance on agriculture)  + flooded fields caused low rice crop.
  • Individual and national debt increased.

Environmental Impacts:

  • Rivers polluted with sewage, but fertile silt deposited on flood plain.
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Causes of Flooding - Carlisle, Cumbria, 2005

The River Eden reaches the sea near Carlisle and flooded due to:

  • Large drainage basin
  • Steep sided basin
  • Many fast draining streams

Physical factors:

  • Heavy rainfall
  • Rain fell on saturated ground
  • High peak discharge

Human factors:

  • Large built-up area with impermeable concrete and tarmac surfaces
  • Little soil or vegetation 
  • Drains and sewerage systems overflowed in some areas
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Impacts of Flooding - Carlisle, Cumbria, 2005

Social Impacts:

  • 3 died
  • 3000 made homeless for up to a year - temporary accommodation disrupted lives 
  • Personal possessions damaged
  • 4 schools severely flooded 
  • Increase in stress-related illness

Economic Impacts:

  • £100 billion
  • 350 businesses shut down 
  • 'United Biscuits' - 33/1100 employees lost their jobs
  • 70,000 addresses lost power
  • 80 buses destroyed and many roads and bridges damaged

Environmental Impacts:

  • Increased river bank erosion
  • Rivers polluted with rubbish and sewage
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Flood Management Strategies - Yangtze River

Hard Engineering Strategies:

  • Many dams, including Three Gorges Dam - reservoir catches water and slowly releases it, largest HEP station in the world
  • Many levees

Positive Effects:

  • Reduced major flooding from 1 in 10 years to 1 in 100 years
  • Produces a lot of electricity (3% of China's demand)
  • Safer to navigate up the river - increase in river shipping

Negative Effects:

  • People have had to relocate (2 million)
  • Reservoir will flood farmland, factories etc.
  • If dam fails, catastrophic flooding could occur
  • Destroys habitats and endangers species
  • Doesn't protect everyone - increased risk of flooding elsewhere
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Flood Management Strategies - Abingdon

Soft Engineering Strategies:

  • Gravel soakways
  • Low value land allowed to flood
  • Planning/Land-use restrictions
  • Local Flood Warning Plan - 25 Hour Floodline
  • Internet advice
  • Voluntary flood wardens

Damage is reduced - Floods still happen:

  • Difficult to measure success
  • Flood warnings were issued in 2008
  • Ock flood plain wan't flooded, but the Thames flood plain was
  • The 2008 floods did less damage than in previous years (no lives lost)
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Issues in Cold Environments - The Antarctic

Unique environment:

  • Wilderness area - unaffected by large-scale human activity
  • Contains 90% of all ice on Earth 
  • Ice sheet covers most of Antarctica all year round

Fragile Ecosystem:

  • Little available water for plants to grow
  • Very cold - Average of -49 degrees C + very little sunshine
  • Very few plants and animals can survive there - there is abundant bird/sea life
  • Takes a long time to recover from any damage
  • Sea ecosystem is also fragile (food chain easily affected by one species)

Valuable resources:

  • 300 species of fish, 8 species of whale
  • Attractive scenery
  • Large underground deposits of coal and iron ore, large oil reserves
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Antarctica Case Study - Antarctic Treaty

Antarctic Treaty:

  • Set up in 1961 - 12 countries came up with laws to protect it
  • Includes many protocols and conventions that control or prohibit certain activities

Oil Extraction, Mining and Whaling:

  • Oil extraction and mining are currently banned
  • 'Madrid Protocol' of 1998 - ban is in force for 50 years (may be lifted in 2048)
  • In 1994 the Antarctic was declared a whale sanctuary and commercial hunting was prohibited (some allowed for scientific research)


  • In 2007-2008, 46,000 tourists visited the area
  • 5,000 scientific researchers there in the summer, 1,000 in the winter - 'Protocol on Environmental Protection' - scientists must remove waste etc.
  • 'Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources' - quotas on fish catches (e.g. krill)
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