Geomorphology of Kuwait

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Geomorphology of Kuwait

Kuwait is a Arabic state, which lies in the North-West corner of the Persian Gulf between 28o and 30o latitudes and between 46o and 48o longitudes. It shares a border with Iraq on the North and with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. On the East it is washed by waters of Persian Gulf. It’s total area makes 17,820 square kilometers. The climate is dry desert with hot summers and cool winters. The terrain is flat with the lowest point of zero above the sea level and the highest point of 306 above the sea level (the location is unnamed). Most of the territory is a desert with only about 1% used as arable lands and for growing permanent crops.

A great part of the territory is occupied by the city El-Kuwait – the country’s capital. Other major towns include Jahrah, Salmiya, Shuwaikh and Hawalli. Irrigated lands cover 130 square kilometers. Natural resources include petroleum, natural gas, fish and shrimp. The country suffers from lack of fresh water, so it possesses one of the world largest distillation facilities. Other geographic problems include sudden sandstorms, which usually happen between March and August and heavy rains which are usual for the period from October to April . Historical and Current Geology of Kuwait

The country’s relief has been formed in the recent Quaternary geological era. The southern part of the country rests on a long, north-oriented dome of limestone laying beneath the surface. It is here where oil resources of Kuwait can be found. The western and northern parts of Kuwait rest on layers of sand, gravel, silt, and clay, covering limestone to the depth up to 210 meters. This layers of sediments have been formed by dried-up riverbeds called the wadis. The greatest of the wadis is Wadi al Batin – a broad and shallow valley forming the northern frontier of the country.

Limestone geological formations, especially in the places where they lay close to surface, are principle suppliers of water for Kuwait. In 1960 a large aquifer has been discovered in the western portion of Ar Rawdatayn geological formation, which is now used for distilled water production, covering most of the country’s needs. On the south from the city of Kuwait another water field has been discovered in the top of the limestone of the Ash Shuaybah. The water here is salty, so it is used mostly for agricultural and commercial needs. Where waters come close to the surface, oases appears, enlivening the landscape of Kuwait .

Basic Geomorphologic Terrains of Kuwait Mainland Most of the Kuwait’s land has no remarkable geomorphologic features like high mountains, rivers, ridges or depressions. A sandy desert of the country is mostly flat, gradually slopping to the sea. Some researchers point, that the land is not really a desert, but rather a semi-desert, because in winter there is a notable vegetation sufficient to support camel herds. However, for most of the year it is really sandy. This landscape is broken by the ridge at Jal Al-Zor – a series of low hills and shallow depressions.

The highest point of the ridge is 145 meters above the sea level. The ridge is cut into two by Umm Al-Ramam Wadi. The southern part of Kuwait is flat with exception of Ahmadi hill (137 m) . In the centre of the country it’s coast bends forming the Gulf of Kuwait, where the capital of the country lays. The sheltered waters of the bay create a number of salty marshes, lagoons, and mud flats. In the center of the gulf lays a small Umm an Namil Island. About 40 kilometers to the south from El-Kuwait lays 120 meters high Al-Adan ridge, a series of heights similar to Jal Al-Zor .

Another remarkable geomorphologic terrain in southern Kuwait Sabkha deposits – a number of irregular closed lowland areas. Two different types of Sabkhas are recognized: costal sabkhas and inland sabkhas. The costal ones are situated mostly in the Al-Jailaiaha and Al-Khiran areas, being extended along a costal depression. Inland sabkhas are situated in the desert areas of Al-Maqwa, Urafjan, and Al-Gurain. On the Kuwait’s west. Both types of sabkhas are subjected to changes after sandstorms. They may be entirely filled with sand an disappears, and new sabkhas may appear.

Based on the study of sands and presence of bones fragments in most of the sabkhas, it has been concluded, that most of the sediments in the sabkhas come from Al-Dibdibbah deposits from the Arabian Shield igneous and metamorphic rocks . Coastal Area The coast of Kuwait is divided into nine geomorphological potions, out of which four are lie along the northern muddy shoreline and five in the southern sandy area. The northern part includes large portions of bays, which are filled with water during high tides and for most of the time they are areas of muddy ground. They are limited by costal sabkhas or sandy drifts.

Intertidal channels form sandbars near the waterlines . In contrast to this, the southern portion of the coat is characterized by steep sandy beaches, narrowed by wide rocky intertidal platforms, covered with sand and other sediments. In many places those rocky surfaces are dissected by intertidal channels and shallow gulleys. The low water line is marked by numerous sandbars. Sometimes they are formed in berms by waves . Costal Islands Kuwait’s territory includes eight major islands and a number of minor ones, situated in the northern and southern part of the country respectively.

Along the southern part of Kuwait coast five minor islands are situated: Miskan, Awhah, Kubbar, Qaruh, and Umm Al-Maradem and one bigger island Faylakah, which is the only inhabited island of all. The islands are subjected to variable tiding conditions and winds and this preconditions their roundish shapes. The northern islands of Miskan and Awhah rest on a shallow platform which is a part of a larger Faylakah Island structure. The three southern islands rest on separate platform each which is most possibly of reef origin.

Beach sediments of the islands consist of sand and biologic measures, which makes them similar to the shores of Kuwait mainland . The Faykalah island is situated 20 kilometers away from the coast near El-Kuwait and has quite a different ecosystem in comparison to the mainland. It is used mostly as a recreational zone because the Iraqi have depopulated the island during the invasion in 1991, so there are only few local residents living there. 16 kilometers south-east of Faykalah lays the Auhah Island, which is 800 meters long by 540 meters wide and uninhabited except for a lighthouse.

29 kilometers off of the coast of Faykalah the Kubbar Island is situated. It is almost round in form and has flat sandy surface. Separately stands a large island of Bubiyan, which, under it’s geomorphological conditions, is very much similar to Kuwait northern mainland It is separated by Khawr Abd Allah channel on the northeast and Khawr as Sabiyah channel on the north. The latter channel also separates it from Warbah Island, which is 15 kilometers long and 5 kilometers wide and lays only a hundred meters away from the mainland.

The surface of the island is a muddy flat. The Bubiyan is connected with the mainland by a concrete bridge, which is, however, for military use only. The terrain of the island is similar to the one of the northern Kuwait mainland. It is a flat desert and semi-desert area with shores being sandy or muddy. No remarkable depressions or heights exist on the island. Between Bubiyan and Faykalah lays the Miskan Island, which is uninhabited save for a lighthouse, but it is vital for the country as part of it’s defensive frontier.

Other islands include Umm al Maradim which lays between Kuwait and UAE territorial waters. It is 1,5 kilometers long and 540 meters wide and is known for deep waters around it, which allow ships to safely anchor. 17 kilometers away from this island is Qaruh Island, which received it’s name after Qar – an Arabic name for petroleum sediments, great amounts of which can be found on the island. It is the smallest and the most remote island of Kuwait which is only 275 meters long and 175 meters wide.

Works Cited: 1. 2007 CIA WORLD FACTBOOK. Kuwait (CD-ROM), Progressive Management, 20062. Francesca Davis Dipiazza. Kuwait in Pictures, Twenty-First Century Books, 2006 3. A. Al-Hurban , and I. Gharib, Geomorphological and sedimentological characteristics of coastal and inland sabkhas, Southern Kuwait, Journal of Arid Environments Volume 58, Issue 1, July 2004, Pages 59-85 4. Mohamed I. El-Sayed and Dhia Al-Bakri, Geomorphology and sedimentary/biosedimentary structures of the intertidal environment along the coast of Kuwait, north-western Arabian Gulf. International Journal of Earth Sciences. Volume 83, Number 2 / July, 1994


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