In geology and earth science , a PLATEAU ( /pləˈtoʊ/ ,
/plæˈtoʊ/ or /ˈplætoʊ/ ; plural PLATEAUS or PLATEAUX), also
called a HIGH PLAIN or TABLELAND, is an area of highland , usually
consisting of relatively flat terrain that is raised significantly
above the surrounding area, often with one or more sides with steep
slopes. Plateaus can be formed by a number of processes, including
upwelling of volcanic magma , extrusion of lava , and erosion by water
and glaciers.Plateaus are classified according to their surrounding
environment as intermontane, Piedmont, or continental. Plateaus are
found on every continent, with Asia hosting the largest and highest:
* 1 Formation
* 1.2 Erosive
* 2 Classification
* 3 Large plateaus
* 3.1 Asia
* 3.2 Antarctica
* 3.5 Africa
* 3.6 Oceania
* 4 See also
* 5 References
* 6 External links
Plateaus can be formed by a number of processes, including upwelling
of volcanic magma , extrusion of lava , and erosion by water and
Main article: volcanic plateau
Volcanic plateaus are produced by volcanic activity . The Columbia
Plateau in the northwestern
United States is an example. They may be
formed by upwelling of volcanic magma or extrusion of lava .
The underlining mechanism in forming plateaus from upwelling starts
when magma rises from the mantle , causing the ground to swell upward.
In this way, large, flat areas of rock are uplifted to form a plateau.
For plateaus formed by extrusion, the rock is built up from lava
spreading outward from cracks and weak areas in the crust.
Plateaus can also be formed by the erosional processes of glaciers on
mountain ranges, leaving them sitting between the mountain ranges.
Water can also erode mountains and other landforms down into plateaus.
Dissected plateaus are highly eroded plateaus cut by rivers and broken
by deep narrow valleys. Computer modeling studies suggest that high
plateaus may also be partially a result from the feedback between
tectonic deformation and dry climatic conditions created at the lee
side of growing orogens .
Plateaus are classified according to their surrounding environment.
* Intermontane plateaus are the highest in the world, bordered by
Tibetan Plateau is one such plateau.
* Piedmont plateaus are bordered on one side by mountains and on the
other by a plain or a sea. The
Piedmont Plateau of the Eastern United
States between the
Appalachian Mountains and the Atlantic Coastal
Plain is an example.
* Continental plateaus are bordered on all sides by plains or
oceans, forming away from the mountains. An example of a continental
plateau is the
Antarctic Plateau or
Polar Plateau in
East Antarctica .
The largest and highest plateau in the world is the
Tibetan Plateau ,
sometimes metaphorically described as the "roof of the world ", which
is still being formed by the collisions of the Indo-Australian and
Eurasian tectonic plates . The Tibetan plateau covers approximately
2,500,000 km2 (970,000 sq mi), at about 5,000 m (16,000 ft) above sea
level. The plateau is sufficiently high enough to reverse the Hadley
cell convection cycles and to drive the monsoons of
India towards the
The second-highest plateau is the Deosai
Plateau of the Deosai
National Park (also known as Deoasai Plains) at an average elevation
of 4,114 m (13,497 ft). It is located in the Astore and Skardu
Gilgit-Baltistan , in northern
Pakistan . Deosai means
'the land of giants'. The park protects an area of 3,000 km2 (1,200 sq
mi). It is known for its rich flora and fauna of the Karakoram-West
Tibetan Plateau alpine steppe ecoregion. In spring it is covered by
sweeps of wildflowers and a wide variety of butterflies. The highest
point in Deosai is
Deosai Lake , or Sheosar
Lake from the Shina
language meaning "Blind lake " (Sheo – Blind, Sar – lake) near the
Chilim Valley. The lake lies at an elevation of 4,142 m (13,589 ft),
one of the highest lakes in the world , and is 2.3 km (1.4 mi) long,
1.8 km (1.1 mi) wide, and 40 m (130 ft) deep on average.
Hardangervidda , the largest plateau in Europe
Colombia is located in a high plateau, over 8,600 ft (2,600 m) high
Some other major plateaus in Asia are:
Armenian Highlands (~400,000
km2 (150,000 sq mi), elevation 900–2,100 metres (3,000–6,900 ft)),
Iranian plateau (~3,700,000 km2 (1,400,000 sq mi), elevation
300–1,500 metres (980–4,920 ft)),
Anatolian Plateau , Mongolian
Plateau (~2,600,000 km2 (1,000,000 sq mi), elevation 1,000–1,500
metres (3,300–4,900 ft)), and the
Deccan Plateau (~1,900,000 km2
(730,000 sq mi), elevation 300–600 metres (980–1,970 ft)).
Another very large plateau is the icy
Antarctic Plateau , which is
sometimes referred to as the
Polar Plateau , home to the geographic
South Pole and the Amundsen-Scott
South Pole Station , which covers
East Antarctica where there are no known mountains but rather
3,000 m (9,800 ft) high of superficial ice and which spreads very
slowly toward the surrounding coastline through enormous glaciers .
This polar ice cap is so massive that the echolocation sound
measurements of ice thickness have shown that large parts of the
Antarctic "dry land" surface have been pressed below sea level . Thus,
if that same ice cap were suddenly removed, the large areas of the
frozen white continent would be flooded by the surrounding Antarctic
Southern Ocean . On the other hand, were the ice cap melts
away too gradually, the surface of the land beneath it would gradually
rebound away through isostasy from the center of the
Earth and that
same land would ultimately rise above sea level.
A large plateau in
North America is the
Colorado Plateau , which
covers about 337,000 km2 (130,000 sq mi) in
Utah , Arizona
New Mexico .
Arizona and southern
Colorado Plateau is
bisected by the
River and the
Grand Canyon . How this came to
be is that over 10 million years ago, a river was already there,
though not necessarily on exactly the same course. Then, subterranean
geological forces caused the land in that part of
North America to
gradually rise by about a centimeter per year for millions of years.
An unusual balance occurred: the river that would become the Colorado
River was able to erode into the crust of the
Earth at a nearly equal
rate to the uplift of the plateau. Now, millions of years later, the
North Rim of the
Grand Canyon is at an elevation of about 2,450 m
(8,040 ft) above sea level , and the South Rim of the
Grand Canyon is
about 2,150 m (7,050 ft) above sea level. At its deepest, the Colorado
River is about 1,830 m (6,000 ft) below the level of the North Rim.
Another high altitude plateau in
North America is the Mexican Plateau
. With an area of 601,882 km2 (232,388 sq mi) and average height of
1,825 m, it is the home of more than 70 million people.
A TEPUI ( /ˈtɛpwi/ ), or TEPUY (Spanish: ), is a table-top
mountain or mesa found in the
Guiana Highlands of
South America ,
Venezuela and western
Guyana . The word tepui means
"house of the gods" in the native tongue of the
Pemon , the indigenous
people who inhabit the Gran Sabana .
Tepuis can be considered minute plateaus and tend to be found as
isolated entities rather than in connected ranges, which makes them
the host of a unique array of endemic plant and animal species. Some
of the most outstanding tepuis are Neblina ,
Mount Roraima . They are typically composed of sheer blocks of
Precambrian quartz arenite sandstone that rise abruptly from the
jungle, giving rise to spectacular natural scenery.
Auyantepui is the
Angel Falls , the world's tallest waterfall .
The Colombian capital city of Bogota sits on an Andean plateau known
Altiplano Cundiboyacense roughly the size of Switzerland.
Averaging a height of 2,600 metres above sea level, this northern
Andean plateau is situated in the country's eastern range and is
divided into three main flat regions; the
Bogotá savanna , the
Chiquinquirá , and the valleys of
Road to the ALMA ’s Operations Support Facility and
then on further to the
Plateau at 5000 meters above sea
The parallel Sierra of Andes delimit one of the world highest
Altiplano , (Spanish for "high plain"), Andean Plateau
or Bolivian Plateau. It lies in west-central South America, where the
Andes are at their widest, is the most extensive area of high plateau
Earth outside of Tibet. The bulk of the
Altiplano lies within
Bolivian and Peruvian territory while its southern parts lie in Chile
and Argentina. The
Altiplano plateau hosts several cities like Puno,
Oruro, Potosí, Cuzco and La Paz, the administrative seat of Bolivia.
Altiplano is more humid than the Southwestern, the latter
of which hosts several salares, or salt flats, due to its aridity. At
the Bolivia-Peru border lies
Lake Titicaca , the largest lake in South
The highest African plateau is the
Ethiopian Highlands which cover
the central part of Ethiopia. It forms the largest continuous area of
its altitude in the continent, with little of its surface falling
below 1500 m (4,921 ft), while the summits reach heights of up to 4550
m (14,928 ft). It is sometimes called the Roof of Africa due to its
height and large area.
Another example is the
Highveld which is the portion of the South
African inland plateau which has an altitude above approximately 1500
m, but below 2100 m, thus excluding the Lesotho mountain regions. It
is home to some of largest South-African urban agglomerations.
Western Plateau , part of the
Australian Shield , is an ancient
craton covering much of the continent's southwest, an area of some
700,000 square kilometres. It has an average elevation of between 305
and 460 m.
Plateau is an area of high land occupying
much of the centre of the
North Island of
New Zealand , with
volcanoes, lava plateaus, and crater lakes, the most notable of which
is the country's largest lake,
Lake Taupo . The plateau stretches
approximately 100 km east to west and 130 km north to south. The
majority of the plateau is more than 600 m above sea level.
Deosai National Park
Oceanic plateau for submarine or undersea plateaux
* ^ Garcia-Castellanos, D., 2007. The role of climate during high
plateau formation. Insights from numerical experiments.
Sci. Lett. 257, 372-390, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2007.02.039 pdf
* ^ Leighty, Dr. Robert D. (2001). "
Colorado Plateau Physiographic
Province". Contract Report. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DOD) Information Sciences Office. Retrieved 2007-12-25.
* ^ "The
Road to the Stars". Retrieved 27 July 2015.