Water And Oceanography

How the Yellow River got its name

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"How the Yellow River got its name"
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Nature produces some amazing scenes, and the Yellow River is one of these sights, what else but nature could produce a river that that is most definitely yellow in colour? Flowing across China, the Yellow River is one of the most impressive sights in a country that has many wonders of nature.

The Yellow Riveris second only to the Yangtze in length when it comes to Chinese rivers, a fact that also makes it the sixth largest river in the world at 3398 miles in length. Also known as the Hwang Ho or Huang He, the Yellow River has its roots in western China at the Bayan Har Mountainsand the Loess Plateau.

The naming of the river took little imagination as there is an obvious ochre-yellow tint to the water, an event that is caused by the loess that is to be found in the water. The loess is calcareous silt, non-stratified sediment that comes from the Loess Plateau to be carried by the river as it flows to the sea. At the deepest parts of the Yellow River, the yellow tint is hardly noticeable but as the river flows into shallower areas the colour change is obvious. Fine grained, the yellow silt can provide organic material that greatly increases the fertility of the Yellow River's flood plain. It is the silt that allows rice to be grown in huge volumes, a staple food of the Chinese population, also allowing for multiple harvests.

Although the sediment is of great benefit when it comes to crop growth along the banks of the Yellow River, enough of teh loess remains in the river flow so that as it empties into the Bohai Sea, it too turns yellow thus acquiring a second name as the Yellow Sea.

The loess though does also cause some issues, as over time it builds up creating natural dams that result in flooding. Natural disasters in China cause thousands of deaths and the flooding of the Yellow River is no different. When a serious flood hits the Yellow River it is not unknown for hundreds of thousands to perish, and history is full of recorded events that back this up. During the Second World War the Chinese attempted to make use of the possibility of flooding to hold back the Japanese advance. The forced flooding though only served to kill thousands of Chinese and only a handful of enemy soldiers.

An impressive sight, the Yellow River is a wonder of nature, helping to feed millions, and yet the cause of the pigmentation can also bring about much destruction.

More about this author: Tim Harry

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