Thursday, July 19, 2012

Angleton, Texas

So, like the recently discovered Higgs Boson particle, I too had my own elusive and greatly searched for geographical breakthrough.  It begins like this:


Years ago when Google Earth first added the time-slider tool, which makes my entire blog possible, I realized that one of the best uses for this tool would be for tracking geomorphological change.  I, and others like me, had found various changes like landslides and sinkholes, but the evidence pointed to an opportunity for more undiscovered geographical features.  I theorized that the most elusive of these was the formation of an oxbow lake.  My research took me to many of the world's major rivers such as the Amazon and the Nile.  However, satellite imagery in these areas was lacking and lead to inconclusive research.  I headed to the United States where satellite imagery and aerial photographs date farther back and are regarded as some of the most complete in the world.  I checked the Mississippi and Missouri rivers, being large and powerful.  Unfortunately, these rivers are artificially repaired and protected, so data had to be thrown out.  I began searching smaller rivers left and right, but finding this elusive oxbow lake formation was going to be like finding a needle in a haystack.
But then, while focusing in a random area south of my home, I found an oxbow lake that looked promising.  I slid the time-slider backwards and behold, I had discovered the elusive oxbow lake formation!  I contacted my colleague and showed him my discovery.  He agreed, this was without a doubt the formation of an oxbow lake on the Brazos River!

For those who don't appreciate satire: That was me telling you that I found an oxbow lake in various stages of formation.  It took me a long time to find so I want you to acknowledge my hard work.  That is all.

Dec 1944


Jan 1995


Feb 2004


Jan 2006


Feb 2010


You can find it yourself on Google Earth using these coords:      29°15'34.29"N     095°34'08.85"W

More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxbow_lake

Check back next week to see my first Hawaii post!

54 comments:

  1. AnonymousJuly 19, 2012

    Great stuff, bookmarking for next time I teach meanders. Thanks!

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  2. @Mr. Hutchinson:

    Glad I could help! That's the best kind of satisfaction in doing this blog!

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  3. Very cool! It's interesting to see that the connection between the main channel and the oxbow isn't completely severed until the Nov 2011 image. Even then, when you zoom in, there appears to be an intermittent stream on the left limb. It makes sense, especially when you consider seasonal fluctuation in river level, but still neat to actually see the real thing in action.

    Thanks for sharing! Looking forward to your Hawaii post!

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  4. AnonymousJuly 20, 2012

    Fantastic especially since it's the iconic Brazos river where some of these processes were first systematically studied

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  5. AnonymousJuly 20, 2012

    Great example!

    Thanks!

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  6. Richard HaselwoodJuly 20, 2012

    Geology nerdgasm! Nice work.

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  7. Cool seeing geology and riparian habitat changes in action!

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  8. Very neat!
    Interesting to note that google map view still shows an earlier version of the river.

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  9. AnonymousJuly 20, 2012

    I especially like the satellite photo from 1944.

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    1. That is what I was thinking.

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    2. AnonymousJuly 20, 2012

      A satellite picture in 1944?

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    3. AnonymousJuly 20, 2012

      Most "satellite" photos in Google Earth are actually aerial photos, which they certainly had in 1944.

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    4. Yes, the older photos are aerial photographs and I have a bad habit of referring to all of GE's imagery as "satellite". The internet is a harsh mistress...

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  10. But the river's still flowing downhill, right?

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  11. We have them all over the place here in Brownsville TX, although here they're called "resaca's"

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  12. AnonymousJuly 20, 2012

    But who gets the accretion?

    That is the real question.

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    Replies
    1. AnonymousJuly 22, 2012

      The riparian owner, of course.

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  13. AnonymousJuly 20, 2012

    Here's an Oxbow in Northampton, MA (42°17'26.45" N 72°37'08.63" W). Unfortunately, the satellite shots only go back to 1995. Thanks for the images.

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  14. Who told you black text against a dark green background is a good idea?

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  15. AnonymousJuly 21, 2012

    CA I agree, it's hard for a red/green color blind person to read.
    For a look at a man made oxbow look south of Greenville, MS at Lake Lee. It was formed before the civil war by the land owner, who dynamited a ditch across the neck. Local ledgend says it just took a few hours for the MS river to change direction under high water conditions. The island formed still has signs of the early landowners houses/cess pools.

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  16. AnonymousJuly 22, 2012

    As for the color of this page, it looks quite blue to me... not pure blue, but I wouldn't call it green.

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  17. AnonymousJuly 22, 2012

    Really blue-looking to me, too. And hard to read.

    But since the lake in question lies not very far from where I was born and grew up, I found the story fascinating. If you look at Google maps for the general area, you will find many oxbow lakes scattered around that countryside. Oyster Creek seems to have spawned several. Perhaps the most notable of those is Lake Jackson, though the local history says that was created by the local plantation owner having his slaves dig through the neck of the meander.

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  18. AnonymousJuly 22, 2012

    @Mr Hutchinson: The kids will notice the penis first.
    @Saraceno: Interesting remark. And in fact I think it may be a mechanism that promotes the severance, as dirt suspended in the river water will enter the dead river arm where it will settle. (more dirt is carried when the river is swollen as it moves faster and stirs up dirt more. If the river level lowers, that's gradual and no dirt will be removed from the dead river arm).

    Bert

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  19. Our farm is situated alongside an oxbow. The land titles that divide some of the land adjacent to us involves a line going from certain points 1122 feet west of the section line, north to the Milk River, but in 1967 during a flood, the oxbow pinched off, and with variable erosion here and there, and none of us really know what the boundaries between the different farms should be anymore. This summer we are letting the neighbors horses graze with our cows in the areas that no longer have good boundary explanations any more. Good neighbors are more enjoyable than good lawyers anyway.

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    Replies
    1. Call a land surveyor, they'll be able to figure it out

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  20. I work in Lake Jackson and have used this lake to teach my kids about oxbow lake formation but I didn't realize historical photos were available. Thanks for posting; now I can show them how things Used To Be.

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  21. AnonymousJuly 22, 2012

    Clear and readable, thanks.

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  22. Thanks for all the comments, everyone. I'm sorry about the color issue. It comes through pretty clear on my computer and until the past few days, I've never had much feedback on here so I was unaware of the problem. Hopefully this new layout is better.

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  23. How did Google take that satellite picture of the river in 1944?

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    1. Most imagery before the 90s is provided by aerial photographs belonging to the USGS, NASA, etc.

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  24. AnonymousJuly 22, 2012

    What I find interesting in this, in addition to the obvious, is how the tree line in the 1995 photograph matches the original peninsula shape from 1944. You can see the original shape in 1995 of what it looked like in 1944 even though the peninsula no longer is that shape! I can't imagine it was done on purpose.

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    1. I checked the contour of the land, and the thumb-shaped area you're talking about appears to be out of the flood plain. There is a fairly fast dropoff from the edge of cultivated area to the river, so that area has probably hasn't been eroded by the river for hundreds if not thousands of years...

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  25. Check out 44°29'32.66"N 111°18'1.38"W. This is a stretch of the North Fork of the Snake River, where my family has had a cabin for three generations. In that spot, there's a double ox bow forming. The outer riverbed was the river's main path in my grandfather's youth. When I was growing up, the middle riverbed was the main riverbed, and was known as "the cutoff". At that time you could still get a boat through the big oxbow. I like to think I discovered "the new cutoff", which is now the main path of the river, as a teenager in a canoe, when it was no wider than my arm span. That was 20 years ago or so. It's now obviously the main path of the river, and both the original river bed and what is now known as "the old cutoff" are becoming oxbow lakes.

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    1. Very nice! One of the reasons I do this blog is because I think a lot of people don't recognize that features on our earth can change in a very short time. I'm glad you got to experience this first hand!

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  26. Anyone notice the trees disappear?

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  27. AnonymousJuly 22, 2012

    "Anyone notice the trees disappear?"

    First thing I noticed too, which made me wonder if this is a natural phenomenon at all, or if it was the result of human activity. Removing the trees would cause run off and changes in soil/sediment flow etc.

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  28. AnonymousJuly 22, 2012

    Stark glaring white letters on a black background. Sheesh!

    To get the full effect of older eyes, take a pair of glasses, rub your not recently washed thumb over the lenses, wipe it with a clean dry cotton cloth to smear the oils around, and read your site with them on.

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  29. I saw @brainpicker mention this on Twitter, and the first thing I thought was that Hawaii would be a great contender for Google Earth Time Machine--looking forward to your next post!

    Also, I have to agree that the white on black is stressful. It looks great, but it puts a lot of strain on my eyes. For this reason, I will probably just follow in Google Reader, so thank you for making the entire feed available there. :)

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  30. Thanks for the feedback! I'm going to try and reformat the whole blog soon in a way that everyone can read it without a problem.

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  31. AnonymousJuly 23, 2012

    Check out the Choctawhatchee River in Florida. You can see similar examples that have been created just since '94. This river is known for its endless bends and oxbow lakes.

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  32. AnonymousJuly 23, 2012

    Genius, they do exist!!! Now please tell me why we are still teaching about them?

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  33. AnonymousJuly 24, 2012

    Thanks - I will be using it in class, since my students have actually heard of the Brazos!

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  34. Good work - I used to play along a stretch of river in Aberdeenshire, Scotland when I was but a lad, never really interested in geography class but the one thing always did sick with me was how that one day, in my lifetime probably, a stretch of river we'd play at would one day be an ox-bow lake.

    Haven't been there in about 15 years, maybe I should pop back...

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  35. There are a tonne of these just north of fort nelson, bc. Not sure if the satilite images are any good though.

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  36. thanks for sharing.

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  38. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  39. Great find!

    At 29°40'42.86"N 96° 1'15.95"W farther up the Brazos River is another Oxbow forming, which will take out the Valley Lodge subdivision. It's already taken out one street, and one is now impassable.
    http://www.uh.edu/~jbutler/physical/flooding/simontonhasaproblem.html

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  40. Great example. Here are some other examples of rapid change: the Walker River delta in Nevada (http://geologicfroth.com/walker-river-delta-nevada-1994-2007) and the delta of Las Vegas Wash (http://geopathology.posterous.com/the-delta-of-las-vegas-wash-nevada-2004-2008).

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    1. These are impressive! I was not aware of Lake Mead's recession (I have an earlier blog of the Aral Sea shrinking though). Thanks for sharing these!

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  41. It's a good sharing.i was not aware of this lake before.Plastic Card

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  42. It's really amazing post...thanks for sharing these info enhance my knowledge....Plastic cards

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  43. Awesome places Thanks for sharing information...
    Plastic card Printing

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