Issue Two : Spring 2016

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The Alluvial Valley of the Lower Mississippi River. The map shows stream courses from sections of Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee.

Introduction to Issue Two

We commonly think of rivers as, for the most part, staying where they belong, in the river bed, occasionally coming out into the floodplain under fairly predictable conditions conducive to high water that we call “floods.” The writing in this issue of Open Rivers belies this notion of predictability, to a large degree.

Flooding in New Orleans. NASA image courtesy Lawrence Ong, EO-1 Mission Science Office, NASA GSFC.

Disturbing the Mississippi: The Language of Science, Engineering, and River Restoration

Around the world, from the U.K. to India, governments and NGOs are formulating plans and raising funds to restore river and floodplain habitat. Much of this restoration work is undertaken in the interest of minimizing or rolling back the effects of disturbances, such as hurricanes, erosion, and urban development, and shoring up resilience, a river’s natural ability to resist disturbances. However, the words used to explain river systems have come to explain what threatens them, and to explain what river restoration must therefore accomplish. Words shape deeds.

Confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers. Using satellite imagery, we can compare the amount of sediment coming into the Mississippi River from the Minnesota River (the lower river). Satellite Image Courtesy of DigitalGlobe Foundation.

Maps, Geographies, and the Mississippi

U-Spatial provides support for spatial research. We make maps. And help colleagues at the University of Minnesota discover and analyze geospatial data. We collaborate with people in public health, nursing, business, history, anthropology, education, design, engineering, natural resources, and even dentistry.

View north into Minneapolis up the Mississippi River gorge. Image from the Metropolitan Design Center Image Bank. Copyright Regents of the University of Minnesota, All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Climate Change and Rivers

Open Rivers contacted Paul Huttner, Chief Meteorologist for Minnesota Public Radio. Huttner writes the Updraft blog and hosts MPR’s weekly Climate Cast. We wanted to learn more about the impact climate change is having on rivers and communities and how discussions about environmental issues and water are changing.

A map of the parts of America claimed by France under the names of Louisiana in 1720 by Herman Moll.

Southern Waters

The South as we have come to know it takes its shape from water-based decisions: New Orleans itself was founded because of its strategic location along three bodies of water—the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River to its south, and Lake Pontchartrain to the north.