Amazon Pirating Water from Neighboring Rio Orinoco

Liza Lester | AGU GeoSpace
Friday, August 17, 2018

A new paper from the Perron Group appearing in the AGU journal Geophysical Research Letters illuminates how the Rio Casiquiare is slowly capturing the entire drainage basin of the world's fourth largest river and delivering it to the Amazon—already the largest river in the world. The Casiquiare is a distributary of the Rio Orinoco, and the only connection between two major watersheds of its kind, offering scientists the opportunity to better understand how the Amazon basin formed. According to lead author, EAPS graduate student Maya Stokes, “A river capture in action is a rare and unique chance to observe this process that we have evidence for in the geologic record but don’t frequently get to actually observe.”

Read the full story at the AGU GeoSpace blog

This research was funded in part by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program, and by MIT Fellowships: the Patrick Hurley Fellowship, Praecis Presidential Fellowship, and Ida Green Fellowship.

Story Image: Although it looks like a tributary, the Rio Casiquiare is a rare distributary of the upper Rio Orinoco (top), flowing south to meet the Rio Negro in the Amazon River Basin, about 340 kilometers (200 miles) to the bottom of the image. The Casiquiare is about 90 meters wide where it splits from the Orinoco, diverting about a quarter of the Orinoco’s water. Eventually the Casiquiare will conduct the all of the flow from the 40,000-square-kilometer (25,000-square-mile) drainage basin away from the upper Orinoco and into the Amazon, according to new research. Credit: Google Earth


Paper: Stokes, M.F., S.L. Goldberg and J.T. Perron (2018). Ongoing river capture in the Amazon. Geophys. Res. Lett., 45, 5545-5552, doi:10.1029/2018GL078129.


Taylor Perron studies how landscapes form and evolve, both on Earth and on other planets. His approach combines theory and numerical modeling, field and remote sensing observations, analysis of data from planetary missions, and laboratory experiments. His group’s research is organized around three themes: explaining prominent landscape patterns such as branching river networks; using natural experiments to study how climate shapes landscapes; and examining planetary landforms to learn about the evolution of other worlds.

Perron Surface Processes Group

Recent News

Shifting Climates. Shifting Landscapes.

Tracing the Evolution of a Landscape

Measuring the Migration of a River