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What Causes the Bizarre “Meeting of the Waters” in Brazil?

Meeting of the Waters

Image credit: Terry Feuerborn.

Looking as a big-sized sandbar or kind of serious pollution, the Meeting of the Waters in Brazil has actually incorporated the water from the rivers of Rio Negro and Rio Solimões. Although the two rivers meet up to give birth of the Lower Amazon River, in fact they never mix with each other at the very beginning. Such gorgeous scene keeps its outlook for nearly 6 km owing to incompatible differences in the water characteristics between the two rivers.

From the implication of its name, the Rio Negro is a black-colored river. Though it has little sediment, its tea-like color is caused by a great amount of plant material steeping in the water flowing down through the jungles of Colombia. With average water temperature of 28 degrees Celsius, the Rio Negro goes quietly slowly at the speed of 2 kilometers each hour

However, the color of the Rio Solimões looks the creamy cafe-au-lait because of the large quantities of sediment accumulated when the water flows down the AndesMountains. Compared with the Rio Negro, the water temperature of the Rio Solimões is quite lower with 22 degrees Celsius, but it runs much faster with the speed of nearly 6 kilometers per hour.

The reasons why the two rivers do not mix at their initial meeting are attributed to the difference in composition, density and flow rate as well as temperature. As the contrast in color is amazingly stark, this section of water could be observed even from space. Finally, the water comes across obstacles which help form the huge eddies, thus mixing up the two rivers together.

As an unusual scene, this section of water has become so popular that it attracts many tourists to experience its marvelous look at Manaus, Brazil.

Check out what this confluence looks like from NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite:

NASA Earth Observatory

Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory/J. Allen/R. Simmon.

Source: NASA Earth Observatory