List of drainage basins by area

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The list of drainage basins by area identifies areas larger than 400,000 km2 (150,000 sq mi), sorted by area, which drain to oceans, mediterranean seas, rivers, lakes and other waterbodies. It includes drainage basins which do not flow to the ocean (endorheic basins). It includes oceanic sea drainage basins which have hydrologically coherent areas (oceanic seas are set by IHO convention).

The oceans drain approximately 83% of the land in the world. The other 17% – an area larger than the basin of the Arctic Ocean – drains to internal endorheic basins.

Note that there are substantial areas of the world that do not "drain" in the commonly understood sense. In Arctic deserts much of the snowfall sublimates directly into the air and does not melt into flowing water, while in equatorial deserts precipitation may evaporate before joining any substantial water course. However, these areas can still be included in topographically defined basins if one considers the hypothetical flow of water (or ice), and thus nutrients or pollutants, over the surface of the ground (or ice sheet); this is the approach taken here. For example, the Antarctic ice sheet can be divided into basins,[1] and most of Libya is included in the Mediterranean Sea basin even though almost no water from the interior actually reaches the sea.

Major continental divides, showing drainage into the major oceans and seas of the world--Drainage basins of the principal oceans and seas of the world. Grey areas are endorheic basins that do not drain to the ocean.

Basins[edit]

Continent color key
Africa Asia Europe North America Australia South America Antarctica
Basin Type Continent Drains to Basin Area
km2
Basin Area
mi2
Notes
Atlantic Ocean Ocean multiple n/a 700769800000000000069,800,000 700769800000000000026,900,000 [2]
Arctic Ocean Ocean multiple n/a 700723100000000000023,100,000 70072310000000000008,900,000 [2]
Pacific Ocean Ocean multiple n/a 700720300000000000020,300,000 70072030000000000007,800,000 [2]
Indian Ocean Ocean multiple n/a 700719400000000000019,400,000 70071940000000000007,500,000 [2]
Southern Ocean Ocean Antarctica n/a 700714000000000000014,000,000 70071400000000000005,400,000 [2][3]
(European) Mediterranean Sea Mediterranean sea multiple Atlantic Ocean[4] 70068500000000000008,500,000 70068500000000000003,300,000 [2]
Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea Mediterranean sea multiple Atlantic Ocean[4] 70066200000000000006,200,000 70066200000000000002,400,000 [2]
Amazon River Primary River South America Atlantic Ocean 70066144727000000006,144,727 70066144727000000002,372,492
Hudson Bay Mediterranean sea North America Atlantic Ocean 70063861400000000003,861,400 70063861400000000001,490,900
Congo River Primary River Africa Atlantic Ocean 70063730474000000003,730,474 70063730474000000001,440,344
Caspian Sea Lake Asia/Europe n/a (endorheic basin) 70063626000000000003,626,000 70063626000000000001,400,000
Nile River Primary River Africa Mediterranean Sea 70063254555000000003,254,555 70063254555000000001,256,591
Mississippi-Missouri River Primary River North America Gulf of Mexico 70063202230000000003,202,230 70063202230000000001,236,390 [5]
Río de la Plata Primary River South America Atlantic Ocean 70063170000000000003,170,000 70063170000000000001,220,000 [6]
Ob River Primary River Asia Arctic Ocean 70062972497000000002,972,497 70062972497000000001,147,688
Paraná River Tributary River South America Río de la Plata 70062582672000000002,582,672 7006258267200000000997,175
Yenisei River Primary River Asia Arctic Ocean 70062554482000000002,554,482 7006255448200000000986,291
Lake Chad Lake Africa n/a (endorheic basin) 70062497918000000002,497,918 7006249791800000000964,452
Black Sea Mediterranean sea multiple Mediterranean Sea[4] 70062400000000000002,400,000 7006240000000000000930,000 [2]
Lena River Primary River Asia Arctic Ocean 70062306772000000002,306,772 7006230677200000000890,650
Niger River Primary River Africa Atlantic Ocean 70062261763000000002,261,763 7006226176300000000873,272
Amur River Primary River Asia Pacific Ocean 70061929981000000001,929,981 7006192998100000000745,170
Mackenzie River Primary River North America Arctic Ocean 70061743058000000001,743,058 7006174305800000000672,998
Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) Primary River Asia Pacific Ocean 70061722155000000001,722,155 7006172215500000000664,928
Baltic Sea Mediterranean sea Europe Atlantic Ocean[4] 70061700000000000001,700,000 7006170000000000000660,000 [2]
Irtysh River Tributary River Asia Ob River 70061673470000000001,673,470 7006167347000000000646,130
GangesBrahmaputra Primary River Asia Bay of Bengal 70061621000000000001,621,000 7006162100000000000626,000 [7]
Aral Sea Lake Asia n/a (endorheic basin) 70061618750000000001,618,750 7006161875000000000625,000
Madeira River Tributary River South America Amazon River 70061485218000000001,485,218 7006148521800000000573,446
Volga River Primary River Europe Caspian Sea 70061410994000000001,410,994 7006141099400000000544,788
Persian Gulf Mediterranean sea Asia Indian Ocean[4] 70061400000000000001,400,000 7006140000000000000540,000 [2]
Zambezi River Primary River Africa Indian Ocean 70061332574000000001,332,574 7006133257400000000514,510
Missouri River Tributary River North America Mississippi River 70061331810000000001,331,810 7006133181000000000514,210 [5]
Lake Eyre Basin Lake Australia n/a (endorheic basin) 70061200000000000001,200,000 7006120000000000000460,000 [8]
Paraguay River Tributary River South America Paraná River 70061168540000000001,168,540 7006116854000000000451,180
Indus River Primary River Asia Arabian Sea 70061081733000000001,081,733 7006108173300000000417,659
Nelson River Primary River North America Hudson Bay 70061072300000000001,072,300 7006107230000000000414,000 [9]
Murray-Darling basin Primary River Australia Southern Ocean 70061072000000000001,072,000 7006107200000000000414,000
St. Lawrence River Primary River North America Atlantic Ocean 70061049621000000001,049,621 7006104962100000000405,261
Angara River Tributary River Asia Yenisei River 70061039000000000001,039,000 7006103900000000000401,000 [10]
Ganges River Primary River Asia Indian Ocean 70061016104000000001,016,104 7006101610400000000392,320
Lake Winnipeg Lake North America Nelson River 7005982900000000000982,900 7005982900000000000379,500 [9]
Great Slave Lake Lake North America Mackenzie River 7005976200000000000976,200 7005976200000000000376,900
Orinoco River Primary River South America Atlantic Ocean 7005953598000000000953,598 7005953598000000000368,186
Huang He (Yellow River) Primary River Asia Pacific Ocean 7005945065000000000945,065 7005945065000000000364,892
Orange River Primary River Africa Atlantic Ocean 7005941421000000000941,421 7005941421000000000363,485
Kasai River Tributary River Africa Congo River 7005925172000000000925,172 7005925172000000000357,211
Tarim Basin Endorheic basin Asia n/a (endorheic basin) 7005906500000000000906,500 7005906500000000000350,000 [11]
Yukon River Primary River North America Bering Sea 7005847642000000000847,642 7005847642000000000327,276
Mekong River Primary River Asia Pacific Ocean 7005805627000000000805,627 7005805627000000000311,054
Jubba-Shebelle basin Primary River Africa Indian Ocean 7005805100000000000805,100 7005805100000000000310,900 [12]
Great Lakes Lake North America St. Lawrence River 7005800114000000000800,114 7005800114000000000308,926
Danube River Primary River Europe Black Sea 7005795686000000000795,686 7005795686000000000307,216
Syr Darya Primary River Asia Aral Sea 7005782669000000000782,669 7005782669000000000302,190
Tigris-Euphrates Rivers Primary River Asia Persian Gulf 7005765831000000000765,831 7005765831000000000295,689
Tocantins River Primary River South America Atlantic Ocean 7005764183000000000764,183 7005764183000000000295,053
Okavango River/Okavango Delta Primary River Africa n/a (endorheic basin) 7005721277000000000721,277 7005721277000000000278,487
Rio Negro Tributary River South America Amazon River 7005720114000000000720,114 7005720114000000000278,038
Colorado River (U.S.) Primary River North America Gulf of California 7005703132000000000703,132 7005703132000000000271,481
Kolyma River Primary River Asia Arctic Ocean 7005679908000000000679,908 7005679908000000000262,514
Columbia River Primary River North America Pacific Ocean 7005657490000000000657,490 7005657490000000000253,860
Brahmaputra River Primary River Asia Indian Ocean 7005651334000000000651,334 7005651334000000000251,481
Red Sea Mediterranean sea multiple Indian Ocean[4] 7005620000000000000620,000 7005620000000000000240,000 [2]
São Francisco River Primary River South America Atlantic Ocean 7005617812000000000617,812 7005617812000000000238,539
Ubangi River Tributary River Africa Congo River 7005613202000000000613,202 7005613202000000000236,759
Rio Grande Primary River North America Gulf of Mexico 7005608023000000000608,023 7005608023000000000234,759
Lake Baikal Lake Asia Angara River 7005571000000000000571,000 7005571000000000000220,000
Chari River Primary River Africa Lake Chad 7005548747000000000548,747 7005548747000000000211,872
Amu Darya Primary River Asia Aral Sea 7005534764000000000534,764 7005534764000000000206,474
Dnieper River Primary River Europe Black Sea 7005531817000000000531,817 7005531817000000000205,336
Xingu River Tributary River South America Amazon River 7005520292000000000520,292 7005520292000000000200,886
Lake Balkhash Lake Asia n/a (endorheic basin) 7005512010000000000512,010 7005512010000000000197,690
Viljuj River Tributary River Asia Lena River 7005507874000000000507,874 7005507874000000000196,091
Kama River Tributary River Europe Volga River 7005507000000000000507,000 7005507000000000000196,000
Jubba River Primary River Africa Indian Ocean 7005497655000000000497,655 7005497655000000000192,146
Great Basin Endorheic basin North America n/a (endorheic basin) 7005492000000000000492,000 7005492000000000000190,000 [13]
Ohio River Tributary River North America Mississippi River 7005490603000000000490,603 7005490603000000000189,423
Tapajos River Tributary River South America Amazon River 7005486792000000000486,792 7005486792000000000187,951
Songhua River Tributary River Asia Amur River 7005459745000000000459,745 7005459745000000000177,509
Don River Primary River Europe Black Sea 7005458703000000000458,703 7005458703000000000177,106
Arkansas River Tributary River North America Mississippi River 7005435122000000000435,122 7005435122000000000168,002
Saskatchewan River Tributary River North America Lake Winnipeg 7005435000000000000435,000 7005435000000000000168,000
Tobol River Tributary River Asia Irtysh River 7005426000000000000426,000 7005426000000000000164,000
Limpopo River Primary River Africa Indian Ocean 7005421168000000000421,168 7005421168000000000162,614
Senegal River Primary River Africa Atlantic Ocean 7005419659000000000419,659 7005419659000000000162,031
Ayeyarwady River Primary River Asia Indian Ocean 7005413674000000000413,674 7005413674000000000159,720
Pearl River Primary River Asia Pacific Ocean 7005409458000000000409,458 7005409458000000000158,093
Volta River Primary River Africa Atlantic Ocean 7005407093000000000407,093 7005407093000000000157,179

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k This is an approximate value based on geospatial data from the USGS.[2] Approximate values for the area of Greenland and Antarctica were added to this data.
  3. ^ The value listed here assumes that the entire continent drains to the ocean, such as through the many ice streams, outlet glaciers, and seasonal glacial streams along the coast. However, there are many small endorheic lakes, for example in the McMurdo Dry Valleys.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Note that the connection between a mediterranean sea (or a large estuary) and its parent ocean usually involves simultaneous inflow and outflow in the lower and upper water layers of the connecting channel. Depending on the salinity of the sea, the upper layer may either flow into or out from the ocean; the bottom layer will flow the opposite direction.
  5. ^ a b The Mississippi is not the longest watercourse in the Mississippi-Missouri watershed; the combination of the Lower Mississippi and the Missouri is longer. The Upper Mississippi River could thus be seen as a tributary of that river. See list of rivers by length for more details.
  6. ^ Raúl A. Guerrero et al. (June 1997). "Physical oceanography of the Río de la Plata Estuary, Argentina". Continental Shelf Research 17 (7): 727–742. doi:10.1016/S0278-4343(96)00061-1. 
  7. ^ Arnold, Guy (2000). World strategic highways. Taylor & Francis. p. 223. ISBN 978-1-57958-098-8. Retrieved 17 May 2011. 
  8. ^ "Map of the Lake Eyre basin". Environment.gov.au. 2011-02-18. Retrieved 2011-04-10. 
  9. ^ a b "Canada Drainage Basins". The National Atlas of Canada, 5th edition. Natural Resources Canada. 1985. Retrieved 24 November 2010. 
  10. ^ http://www.feow.org/ecoregions/details/yenisei
  11. ^ "Encyclopædia Britannica". Britannica.com. Retrieved 2011-04-10. 
  12. ^ http://www.somwe.com/hydropolitics.html
  13. ^ "Boundary Descriptions and Names of Regions, Subregions, Accounting Units and Cataloging Units". USGS.gov. Retrieved 2010-12-21.  NOTE: The Great Basin is a set of endorheic drainage basins, the largest being the 35,910 km2 (13,860 sq mi) that drains into the Great Salt Lake.

External links[edit]