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The Mississippi and Mekong Deltas — A Comparison
The areal extent, recent geologic history, gradients, maximum discharge, and landforms that have developed in the Mekong and Mississippi river systems are generally similar. Average and low discharge of the Mississippi is roughly twice that of the Mekong with channel depths being consistent with these discharge volumes. Sinuosity, tidal variations, offshore depositional characteristics, and the nature and concentration of the sediment carried by the two rivers are markedly dissimilar. A partial parallel in the two river systems is the upstream diversion of a sizeable portion of the Mekong's flow by the Bassac, and of the Mississippi's flow by the Atchafalaya. Grand Lac, a massive sump located more than 200 miles upstream from the Mekong's mouth and joined with the Mekong through the Tonle Sap, has no counterpart in the Mississippi system. The effect of this sump on flood relief, on smoothing stage differences in the river downstream from the point of diversion, and on depositional characteristics of the Mekong Delta is considerable. The fact that the Mississippi is now essentially confined between artificial levees while the Mekong is entirely unleveed has a marked effect on the morphology of the two deltas. A large proportion of the Mekong's suspended sediment is deposited overbank before it reaches the sea.
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