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At the head of the Arabian Gulf the State of Kuwait has a mainland coast long, increasing to 290 km when the associated islands are included. The landscape is largely a gently undulating rocky and sandy desert, with urbanized and industrialized areas based on oil resources. The formations are mainly limestones and sandstones of Tertiary and Pleistocene age, the Jaz al- Zawr escarpment northwest of Kuwait Bay being an out- crop of Pleistocene politic limestone that rises 144 m above sea level, and there is a coastal fringe of Holocene beach sand and marshes. The climate is hyper arid, hot and dry in summer when daytime temperatures often exceed 50В°C, cool with occasional rain in winter. Kuwait has 13.5 in January and 36.6В° in July, and the mean annual rainfall is 125 mm. The prevailing winds are northwesterly, strong during the shamal (north), but there are often southerly winds in spring and southeasterly in summer. There are occasional dust storms, particularly in winter. Tides are semidiurnal, with a mean spring tide range of 2.0 m at Ahmadi on the Arabian Gulf coast, increasing to the western Kuwait Bay and 2.6 m at the tidal mouth of the Shatt al Arab to the north. At low tide, wide areas are exposed along the shores of Kuwait Bay, sandy in the south and muddy in the north, and there are muddy intertidal areas bordering Bubiyana Island (863 sq km) and the mouth of Shatt el Arab. The muddy sediment has come mainly from the Euphrates River by way of the Shatt el Arab outflow.
Waves generated by northwesterly winds generate small waves (up to 20 cm) in Kuwait Bay, while on the east-facing coast there are alternations of long shore drifting, northerly winds producing waves up to 30 cm high that move beach sediment southward and southeasterly winds generating waves that move it back to the north. There is net southward drifting of 50,000 m’/year south of Ahmadi. There has been beach erosion and coastline retreat, but it is slow and intermittent, occurring when the shamal (north) accompanies a high tide. It is a problem locally where the coast is lined with villas built close to the beach, and rock revetments and concrete sea walls have been constructed, but in recent decades artificial beach nourishment has been preferred to the building of solid struc tures. Currents are weak, and mainly wind-driven. The generally high salinity of the Arabian Gulf is somewhat reduced in the northern region, in receipt of fresh water from the Shatt al Arab. The Late Quaternary marine transgression brought the sea to its present level about 6,000 years ago, and there was a brief phase of slightly higher sea level followed by emergence, which resulted in the deposition of beach- es, beach ridges and spits, enclosing a number of small lagoons and intertidal sebkhas, saline marshes linked to the sea through narrow inlets. The beaches shelve gently to shallow sandy near shore areas, and at low tide broad tidal flats are exposed. Thin (about 10 cm) sea floor calcrete layer, formed where sand has been cemented by carbonate precipitation, ex- tends as a rocky terrace offshore, and has in places been disrupted by quarrying. Beach rock has formed where beach sand and shells have been cemented by aragonite. Locally, emerged beach rock has been cut back by marine erosion to form cliffs 1-2 m high, as Sulimiyah. Coral reefs are sparse in the northern part of the Arabian Gulf, but seagrass beds are extensive. Mangroves are close to their latitudinal limits, but grow locally in inlets and sheltered areas, notably the island of Bubiyan.
The coastline: North from the Saudi Arabian border the coastline consists of a series of arcade shallow embayments between cuspate promontories of slightly cemented Pleistocene calcareous
Oolite, which continue seaward as submerged sand spits.
Ras Al-Khafji, the first cuspate promontory, has a tidal outlet from an extensive marshy sebkha, Tafal Al-Uthami, on its northern shore. An irregular beach runs along small bay to the next foreland, Ras Bardhalaj, and on to Al Khiran, where spits enclose a small lagoon Longshore spits have grown southward here. The sandy coast runs out to a sharp cuspate promontory, Ras Al-Zour, which carries oil tanks and loading terminal. Offshore, Umm al Maradim, Qaruh and Kubbar are low sandy islands. A broad curving bay on the northern side runs out to another cuspate promontory, Ras Al Qulay’ah, which has dunes on its northern shore. The coast is then relatively straight north- ward past oil terminals and petrochemical plants at Mina Abdullah, Shua’ibah and Mina Al Ahmadi. At Ras Al-Ard the coast swings westward into Kuwait Bay, along the waterfront of Kuwait City. There is a harbor enclosure and beach compartments artificially renourished between groynes. The tide range increases westward, where a spit and outlying sand island, Umm Al-Nemmel, are the out- come of westward longshore drifting. A port has developed at Shuwaikh. The northwestern shore of Kuwait Bay is low-lying and marshy, with broad intertidal mudflats, the hinterland rising in of terraces that mark emerged coastlines, overlooked by the Jal-al-Zawr escarpment. The coast curves round to a foreland at Qaar Al-Sobiya, and then runs northward alongside a narrow tidal channel, the Khor Al Sabiyah, which separates the large low island of Bubiyan.
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