Category: continents

Mapping The World’s River Basins By Continent

This post is by Omri Wallach from Visual Capitalist

There are hundreds of rivers on Earth’s surface, moving freshwater from hills and mountains down to larger rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Thanks to the planet’s natural slopes and ridges, falling rain that isn’t absorbed by soil or evaporated also ends up in nearby rivers. This area—where all flowing surface water converges—is called a river basin, drainage basin, or watershed.

These maps by Adam Symington show the world’s many rivers and major river basins, using the HydroSHEDS database and broken down by continent.

Mapping River Basins By Continent

The Americas

map of river drainage basins in North America

North and Central America have many different river basins, but a few major rivers stand out.

To the North, Canada’s Mackenzie River runs from British Columbia through the Northwest Territories and ending up at the Arctic Ocean.

Of course, the Mississippi River and the Missouri River which flows into it both stand out as well, draining water from much of the U.S. to the Gulf of Mexico.

A few rivers and basins also start in the U.S. and end up in Mexico, including the Rio Grande from Colorado to Tamaulipas. Further south in Central America and the Caribbean, most of the basins don’t have major rivers and empty into the nearby oceans.

map of river drainage basins in South America

It’s well-known that the Amazon River is the largest river in the world by volume and the second largest by length.

Likewise, its reach and impact can be seen in these maps. The Amazon basin is the largest river basin in the world with (Read more...)

Explainer: Earth’s Tectonic Plates

This post is by Carmen Ang from Visual Capitalist

explaining tectonic plate theory

Click to view a larger version of the graphic.

Explainer: Earth’s Tectonic Plates

It’s widely understood that Earth’s lithosphere (or outer crust) is made up of moving slabs of rock, better known as the tectonic plates.

These plates only move a couple of inches each year. However, these tiny movements add up over time and cause some of Earth’s most well-known phenomena. Today, the Earth looks a lot different than it did millions of years ago.

This graphic by Giulia De Amicis provides a brief explanation of plate tectonic theory and shows a map of the seven major plates.

Plate Tectonic Theory

In the early 20th century, German geologist Alfred Wegener published a paper on his theory called continental drift—a hypothesis that Earth’s continents were moving across Earth, and sometimes, even colliding into one another.

According to Wegener’s theory, Earth’s continents were once joined as a single, giant landmass, which he called Pangaea. But over time, Pangaea broke apart and formed the continents as we know them today.

Wegener couldn’t explain why this phenomenon was happening, so at the time, his theory was heavily criticized by his colleagues. But over the years, technological advances allowed scientists to study the Earth more closely, and geologists started to build on Wegener’s theory.

Discoveries like seafloor spreading helped explain the “why” behind continental movement, and eventually, Wegener’s initial continental drift theory morphed into plate tectonic theory. And now, the idea that Earth’s crust is slowly moving beneath our feet is widely (Read more...)