Geography Case Studies

  • Created by: mkindell
  • Created on: 25-04-15 13:33

San Andreas Fault (Conservative Plate Boundary)

  • California, USA
  • North American and Pacific plates slide past each other in the same direction but at different speeds
  • Earthquakes of up to 8.5 in magnitude
  • small tremors daily
  • LA, San Diego and San Francisco affected
  • Major earthquakes in 1857, 1906, 1989, 2004
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Iceland (Constructive Plate Boundary)

  • On the mid-Atlantic ridge
  • Eurasian and North American plates pull apart
  • Land created by cooled basalt lava 
  • small earthquakes up to 6 on the richter scale
  • caused by the friction created when the plates tear apart
  • volcanoes are not very explosive/dangerous, occur in fissures, erupt basalt lava
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Andes mountains (Destructive Plate Boundary)

  • Located in Peru and Chile
  • Nazca oceanic plate is subducted under the South American continental plate
  • destructive earthquakes of up to 9.5 magnitude
  • Tsunamis can form
  • explosive and desturctive composite volcanoes, erupt andesite lava at 900-1000 degrees C
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Himalayas (Collision Plate Boundary)

  • formed as low-density granite plates (Indian and Eurasian continental plates) push into each other and are forced to rise up
  • earthquakes of up to 9 magnitude on faults
  • landslides can be triggered
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Sakurajima, Japan (Volcano)

  • On a destructive plate boundary
  • Pacific plate subducted under Eurasian plate, causing active volcanoes
  • Sakurajima has erupted up to 200 time each year since the 1950's
  • 7000 people live at the base, nearby Kagoshima has a population of 650,000 and could be decastated by a large eruption
  • Volcanic bombs reach 3km from the crater
  • pyroclastic flows travel 2km
  • 30km2 of ash erupts each year
  • 40% of surrounding land is highly fertile and used to grow tea and rice
  • the area is a national park
  • hot springs and lava flows are a tourist attraction
  • the sheltered bay makes a good point and fishing is an important industry
  • Ash and lava have buried buildings and farmlands
  • poisonous gases cause acid rain, killing plants
  • Sakurajima is monitored by aircraft measuring gas; by seismometers measuring tremors; by tiltmeters measuring magma levels; by boreholes measuring water temperature
  • Citizens are protected by concrete shelters; by lahar channels that divert dangerous mudflows; by evacuation
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Mount Nyiragongo (Volcano - developing country)

  • located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Jan 2002 - basalt lava flow and poisonous gas killed 100 people in the city of Goma
  • 12,500 homes destroyed by lava flows and earthquakes
  • the eruption was predicted so 400,000 people were evacuated
  • Many moved to crowded refugee camps
  • disruption to mains water supplies caused concern for disease spreading
  • poisonous gases caused acid rain affecting crops and livestock
  • most people could not afford to rebuild their homes
  • 120,000 people made homeless
  • UN and Oxfam began a relief effort
  • UN sent 260 tonnes of food in the first week
  • TV appeals for donations
  • national governments donated a total of $35 billion
  • emergency measles vaccinations carried out by the World Health Organisation
  • volcano became active again in 2005 and could erupt at any time
  • an earthquake could release carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide gases trapped in mud on river beds, causing people to suffocate
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Kobe, Japan (Earthquake - developed country)

  • 7.2 magnitude
  • soft ground made tremors worse
  • focus - 16km deep on fault
  • epicentre - 20km from Kobe
  • Kobe - population of 1.5 million

Primary effects:

  • 5,000 dead
  • 20,000 injured
  • high population density & the early time (5:46am) it struck at meant many were endangered
  • bridges and roads collapsed, train lines damaged
  • £100 billion of damage to roads, houses, factories and infrastructure

Secondary effects:

  • broken gas pipes caused fires to break out in the city
  • transport disruption affected workers and businesses
  • Homelessness, disrupted education, stress-related health problems
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Port-au-Prince, Haiti (Earthquake - developing cou

  • 12th January 2010
  • 7.0 magnitude
  • focus - 13km deep on conservative plate boundary
  • epicentre - 26km from Port-au-Prince
  • Port-au-Prince - population of 2.5 million

Primary effects:

  • 316,000 people dead, 300,000 injured
  • poorly built homes collapsed - 1 million people made homeless
  • rubble blocked roads and rail links
  • The port, communication links and major roads were damaged beyond repair

Secondary effects:

  • water supply system damaged - cholera outbreak killed 8,000 people
  • the port was destroyed - it was difficult to get aid to the area
  • clothing factories damaged - 60% of Haitis exports and 1 in 5 jobs lost
  • 1 year later 1 million people were still displaced, many in refugee camps
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Japan's long--term planning (earthquake planning)

  • Japan is a developed country and can afford long-term planning
  • 70% chance of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hitting Tokyo during the next 30 years
  • it could kill 7,000 and injure 160,000
  • there is no way of predicting exactly when it might happen


  • every yearJapan has earthquake drills
  • emergency services practice rescuing people
  • people keep emergency kits at home, containing water, food, a torch and a radio

Building Structure:

  • a dampner in the roof acts as a pendulum to reduce structure sway
  • cross-bracing gives support and prevents collapsing
  • shock absorbers built into cross bracing
  • strong steel frame supports and is flexible - stops cracking
  • strong double-glazed windows stop glass breaking
  • deep foundations prevent sway and collapse
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Sichuan, China (Earthquake, developing world)

  • Sichuan - province in central china
  • 12th May 2008 earthquake of 8.0 magnitude
  • the earthquake wasnt predicted - there was no warning
  • 70,000 died
  • 375,000 were injured
  • 5 million homeless
  • 700 schools collapsed
  • workplaces destroyed - 1 million people lost their jobs
  • rebuilding costs estimated at $75 billion
  • landslides dammed rivers creating "quake lakes" which can burst and cause flooding
  • 200 large aftershocks
  • 27th May - large aftershock of magnitude 6.0 caused 420,000 buildings to collapse
  • heavy rain, landslides and aftershocks made rescue efforts difficult
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China's Earthquake Planning (developing country)

Sichuan Earthquake (12th May 2008)

Short-term planning

  • the Prime Minister Wen Jiabao flew to the area
  • 50,000 soldiers dug for survivors
  • Helicopters used to reach isolated areas
  • Chinese people donated $1.5 billion
  • UK donated $2 billion
  • Finaland sent 8000 tents, Indonesia sent 8 tonnes of medicine
  • Russia, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore sent rescue teams

Long-term planning - building features

  • bamboo cross-bracing
  • lightweight thatched roof
  • concrete rings to hold the walls to the foundations
  • steel rod fondations
  • walls made of mud and straw packed between wooden slats
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Three Gorges Dam (China)

  • on the Yangtze river
  • completed in 2012
  • cost $26 billion
  • 175m long, created a reservoir 600km long
  • designed to: reduce seasonal flooding, improve water supply by regulating river flow, generate electricity (hydropower), make the river easier for ships to navigate


  • has 34 hydroelectric generators which produce 80 billion kWh of electricity each year
  • During China's 2011 drought the reservoir provided farms with water
  • held back floodwaters in 2012


  • 632km2 of land was inundated by the reservoir
  • river wildlife has suffered
  • 1.3 million people had to relocate from 1350 villages and 150 towns.
  • reservoir water quality is low because of upstream industry, sewage and farm waste
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Iceland (Volcano - developed country)

  • april 14th 2010
  • constructive plate boundary
  • 10:30pm eruptions began
  • airport flights cancelled --> people stranded --> cost airports £2billion --> travel insurance companies
  • Hot spot - 150 volcanoes (20 erupt per 100 years)
  • jet stream spread ash cloud over europe --> airports close
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The Little Ice Age

Vikings in Greenland

  • land became covered in ice
  • farmers couldnt grow crops or keep livestock because grass was covered in snow and ice
  • temperatures dropped below 0 degrees centigrede so crops wouldnt grow
  • sea water froze so they couldnt trade with Iceland and Norway, hunting trips in the arctic circle stopped
  • eventually viking settlers died out


  • River Thames in London froze over
  • 'Frost Fairs' held on it
  • farms on high ground struggled (high altitude --> lower temps)
  • peasant farmers died as they relied on the crops and livestock that died


  • 1317 - famine strikes europe, crops fail, livestock die, more rain, lower temps and longer winters
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Denmark (HIC affected by climate chagne)

  • low lying (close to sea level)
  • experience increse in droughts, floods, storms, tornadoes
  • Danes lose homes, jobs
  • have introduced bycycle plan to reduce congestion
  • 80% of Danish energy comes from fossil fuels
  • government hope to be independant from fossil fuels by 2050 --> Danes gas and electricity bills will reduce dramatically
  • easier for Denmark to make changes as they are an HIC so can afford to make changes
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Bangladesh (LIC affected by Climate Change)

  • lots of people live in coastal areas and villages
  • increase in flooding, tropical cyclones, storms, droughts
  • flooding could kill people and livestock, destroy crops and homes
  • Bangladesh is an LIC so is not educated in preventative measures and have less resources --> more people wil die and be made homeless
  • Bangladesh people are not educated in working to reduce climate change
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Biome Examples


  • Climate - Hot & dry
  • Vegetation - Cacti
  • Animals - camels, dung beetles, lizards, scorpions


  • Climate - cold & windy (snowy)
  • Vegetation - sparse/very little
  • Animals - few, e.g. eagles

Savannah (grasslands

  • Climate - Dry season & wet season
  • Vegetation - varied
  • Animals - high biodiversity, e.g. lions, antelope

Tropical Rainforest

  • Climate - hot & humid
  • Vegetation - luscious & varied
  • Animals - high biodiversity, e.g. leopards, tropical birds
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Amazon Rainforest

  • Located in South America
  • covers 2.1 square miles
  • mostly in Brazil, Peru, Colombia
  • accounts for half the worlds remaining rainforest
  • home to 10% of the worlds known species
  • over 40,000 plant species, 25 million insect species, 3000 fruit species, 205 bird species
  • if temperature changed by 3 degrees centigrade it would be destroyed
  • known as "The lungs of the planet" or "Green Lungs" because its plant life produces 20% of the worlds oxygen through photosynthesis
  • provides 70% of cancer medication
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Threats to the Amazon Rainforest

Indirect Threats

  • droughts --> forest fire risk increases
  • absorbing --> emitting CO2
  • 3 degree change could destroy rainforest
  • plants flowering earlier
  • bird migration patterns changing
  • arctic tundra is warming

Direct Threats

  • cattle ranches
  • hydroelectric power
  • fires
  • mining
  • urbanisation
  • dams
  • logging
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set up in 1971

protects wetlands: swamps, marshes, bogs, coral reefs etc

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Convention of the International Trade of Endangered Species

protects endangered animals to prevent their extinction

Stops poaching, BM trading - fines, jail sentences

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Aral Sea

  • Located mostly in Khazakstan
  • previously the 4th largest fresh water lake
  • source river was diverted to irrigate cotton farms
  • over the past 30 years most of the Aral Sea has turned to desert
  • 80% dried up
  • shorter, hotter summers
  • fishing industry collapsed --> people lose jobs
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IWC (International whaling comisison)

  • conserves whales and the management of whaling
  • set up in 1946
  • has 88 country members
  • sets catch limits
  • promotes recovery of depleted whale population
  • includes ship strikes, entanglement events, establishing protocols
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Great Barrier Reef

  • worlds largest coral reef system
  • consists of 2500 reefs
  • reaches 900 islands over 2600km
  • huge tourist industry
  • 30+ species of whales, dolphins & porpoises
  • 6 species of sea turtle breed there
  • 215 species of birds
  • 17 species of snake
  • 1500+ species of fish
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Coca-cola (water depletion)

  • has mass wells in India
  • takes water from local water sources --> locals have no waer
  • uses 2 1/2 litres of water to make 1 litre of coke
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  • stands for Marine Protected Area
  • 5,000 MPAs


  • stands for United Convention on the Law Of the Seas
  • adresses main sources of ocean pollution: land based/coastal activities, continental shelf drilling for gas and oil, sea bed mining, ocean dumping, pollution from ships


  • written in 1973
  • designed to eliminate oil pollution in seas
  • has six sections each adressing a different kind of pollution
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River Case Studies

Buckden Beck - V-shaped valley, interlocking spurs

---> River Wharfe - middle course: meanders, flood plains, U shapes valley, lower course: wide & deep river channel, levees, mudflats

Sheffield Floods

  • June-July 2007
  • heavy rainfall caused the flooding
  • soil became saturated
  • surrounded by high ground
  • worst flooding occured at the confluence of River Rivelin, River Loxley and River Don
  • drains and flood defences
  • Hard engineering - drains and culverts
  • Soft engineering - building design, flood plain zoning, prediction & warning
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