Satellite view of the Ivalo River.

The banks of rivers are in constant flux, a pattern most easily captured from above. This satellite image shows a section of the Ivalo River in Finland, swollen with snowmelt after a winter of historic snowfalls. From above we see some of the river’s previous paths. This meandering is a natural result of secondary flows where rivers bend. The water carves away sediment from the outer bank and deposits it on the inner one, exaggerating every curve until the river cuts itself off, leaving behind a sinuous lake detached from the river’s new course. For an interesting (though non-physical) look at meandering, check out this procedural system for generating maps of rivers (thanks to Kam-Yung Soh for sharing). (Image credit: J. Stevens; via NASA Earth Observatory)

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