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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: the Tibetan Plateau
Tibetan Plateau

CONTENTS

* 1 Formation

* 1.1 Volcanic
Volcanic
* 1.2 Erosive

* 2 Classification

* 3 Large plateaus

* 3.1 Asia * 3.2 Antarctica * 3.3 North America
North America
* 3.4 South America
South America
* 3.5 Africa * 3.6 Oceania

* 4 See also * 5 References * 6 External links

FORMATION

Plateaus can be formed by a number of processes, including upwelling of volcanic magma , extrusion of lava , and erosion by water and glaciers.

VOLCANIC

Main article: volcanic plateau

Volcanic
Volcanic
plateaus are produced by volcanic activity . The Columbia Plateau
Plateau
in the northwestern United States
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.

EROSIVE

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 .

CLASSIFICATION

Plateaus are classified according to their surrounding environment.

* Intermontane plateaus are the highest in the world, bordered by mountains. The Tibetan Plateau
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
Appalachian Mountains
and the Atlantic Coastal Plain
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
East Antarctica
.

LARGE PLATEAUS

ASIA

The largest and highest plateau in the world is the Tibetan Plateau
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
India
towards the south.

The second-highest plateau is the Deosai Plateau
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 districts of Gilgit-Baltistan , in northern Pakistan
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
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
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 Bogotá
Bogotá
, Colombia
Colombia
is located in a high plateau, over 8,600 ft (2,600 m) high

Some other major plateaus in Asia are: Armenian Highlands
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
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
Deccan Plateau
(~1,900,000 km2 (730,000 sq mi), elevation 300–600 metres (980–1,970 ft)).

ANTARCTICA

Another very large plateau is the icy Antarctic Plateau , which is sometimes referred to as the Polar Plateau , home to the geographic South Pole
South Pole
and the Amundsen-Scott South Pole
South Pole
Station , which covers most of East Antarctica
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 Ocean or Southern Ocean
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
Earth
and that same land would ultimately rise above sea level.

NORTH AMERICA

A large plateau in North America
North America
is the Colorado Plateau
Colorado Plateau
, which covers about 337,000 km2 (130,000 sq mi) in Colorado
Colorado
, Utah
Utah
, Arizona and New Mexico
New Mexico
.

In northern Arizona
Arizona
and southern Utah
Utah
the Colorado Plateau
Colorado Plateau
is bisected by the Colorado
Colorado
River
River
and the Grand Canyon
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
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
River
was able to erode into the crust of the Earth
Earth
at a nearly equal rate to the uplift of the plateau. Now, millions of years later, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon
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
Grand Canyon
is about 2,150 m (7,050 ft) above sea level. At its deepest, the Colorado River
River
is about 1,830 m (6,000 ft) below the level of the North Rim.

Another high altitude plateau in North America
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.

SOUTH AMERICA

Main article: Tepui

A TEPUI ( /ˈtɛpwi/ ), or TEPUY (Spanish: ), is a table-top mountain or mesa found in the Guiana Highlands of South America
South America
, especially in Venezuela
Venezuela
and western Guyana
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 , Autana , Auyantepui and Mount Roraima . They are typically composed of sheer blocks of Precambrian
Precambrian
quartz arenite sandstone that rise abruptly from the jungle, giving rise to spectacular natural scenery. Auyantepui is the source of Angel Falls , the world's tallest waterfall .

The Colombian capital city of Bogota sits on an Andean plateau known as the Altiplano Cundiboyacense
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
Bogotá
savanna , the valleys of Ubaté and Chiquinquirá , and the valleys of Duitama and Sogamoso . Road
Road
to the ALMA ’s Operations Support Facility and then on further to the Chajnantor Plateau
Plateau
at 5000 meters above sea level.

The parallel Sierra of Andes delimit one of the world highest plateaus: the Altiplano
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 on Earth
Earth
outside of Tibet. The bulk of the Altiplano
Altiplano
lies within Bolivian and Peruvian territory while its southern parts lie in Chile and Argentina. The Altiplano
Altiplano
plateau hosts several cities like Puno, Oruro, Potosí, Cuzco and La Paz, the administrative seat of Bolivia. Northeastern Altiplano
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
Lake Titicaca
, the largest lake in South America.

AFRICA

The highest African plateau is the Ethiopian Highlands
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.

OCEANIA

The 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.

The North Island
North Island
Volcanic
Volcanic
Plateau
Plateau
is an area of high land occupying much of the centre of the North Island
North Island
of New Zealand
New Zealand
, with volcanoes, lava plateaus, and crater lakes, the most notable of which is the country's largest lake, Lake Taupo
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.

SEE ALSO

* Atherton Tableland
Atherton Tableland
* Butte
Butte
* Chapada * Deosai National Park * Mesa
Mesa
* Oceanic plateau for submarine or undersea plateaux * Potrero * Tepuis * Tuya

REFERENCES

* ^ Garcia-Castellanos, D., 2007. The role of climate during high plateau formation. Insights from numerical experiments. Earth
Earth
Planet. Sci. Lett. 257, 372-390, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2007.02.039 pdf * ^ Leighty, Dr. Robert D. (2001). " Colorado Plateau
Colorado Plateau
Physiographic Province". Contract Report. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DOD) Information Sciences Office. Retrieved 2007-12-25. * ^ "The Road
Road
to the Stars". Retrieved 27 July 2015.

EXTERNAL LINKS

Wikimedia Commons

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