Victoria Falls: The natural variation of a natural wonder


Victoria Falls: The natural variation of a natural wonder

Recently there has been strong concern over the apparent ‘drying up’ of the Victoria Falls- fuelled by sharing of the story on social media. An image taken in Zambia of the apparently dry Victoria Falls was widely circulated and purported to show the Falls as a whole.

However, the large fluctuation of the Zambezi River’s water levels are part of a normal annual occurrence. The huge variation at Victoria Falls is far more than in most of the world’s major waterfalls. The minimum flow, which occurs in November, is on average a mere tenth of the maximum April figure. Source- Wikipedia

 

Zambezi Water Levels
Rough Guide to annual water levels showing the general trend of water levels in a typical year. (image courtesy Zambezi Helicopter Company).

This phenomenon means that viewing the waterfall at different times of the year produces vastly different experiences- and it’s definitely worth seeing both. In high flow the entire length of the Falls is a thundering wall of falling water whereas in low water the underlying structure can be seen and visibility is far better. Compare the images below of the Falls in October above and in May below.

The Victoria Falls in low flow
The Victoria Falls in low flow
 The Victoria Falls in high flow
The Victoria Falls in high flow

The Zambezi river, upstream from the falls, experiences a rainy season from late November to early April, and a dry season the rest of the year. The river’s annual flood season is February to May with a peak in April.

The Zambezi River is at its lowest in approximately November or early December in most years. At times of low water the water of the Falls is concentrated mainly towards the Zimbabwean side as that side of the Falls is deeper. As the dry season takes effect up to half of the rocky face of the falls may become dry and the bottom of the First Gorge can be seen along most of its length.

Victoria Falls Water Levels
The difference in flow at peak levels varies far more than the flow at low levels.

Currently in January 2016 we are about 15cm below the average water level of the Zambezi river at Victoria Falls at this time of the year. The river started rising on the 13/11/15 which is normal. Since Christmas the river has been rising 1/2cm a day.

In high flow the entire length of the Falls is a thundering wall of falling water. Compare the images below of the Falls in October above and in May below.

Below are some more images of the Falls in past years showing the vast difference in water levels that occur each year.

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