PLATEAUS known variously as tablelands or flat-topped mountains, are regions elevated thousands of feet above their surroundings. They are found on continents around the world, in countries ranging from Algeria to Mexico, from Mongolia to Zimbabwe. In Antarctica, which has a greater average elevation than any other continent, most of the land outside of the mountain ranges can be considered plateaus. Covered by thick ice, many of these areas have no names. Some plateaus around the world exist at such great heights that their climate is harsh and living conditions are bleak. Others, at much lower elevations, offer more favorable conditions. The terrain of some plateaus is unbroken and flat. The terrain of many others has been eroded away by water and wind over millions of years to create distinct and unusual landforms. As such, many plateaus are landforms filled with landforms. By definition, a plateau is a relatively level, large expanse of land that rises some 1,500 feet (457 meters) or more above its surroundings and has at least one steep side. A plateau may cover an area as small as several square miles or as large as half the size of the lower forty-eight United States. Some plateaus formed as a result of geologic uplift, or the slow upward movement of large parts of stable areas of Earth's crust. Others lie between mountains, formed in response to the collision of sections of Earth's crust. Still others formed as a result of many lava flows that spread out over hundreds of thousands of square miles, building up the land surface. These latter plateaus are known as lava or basalt plateaus (basalt is the dark, dense volcanic rock that forms these particular lava flows). Some plateaus can form simply when the side of a land region is weathered away through erosion (the gradual wearing away of Earth surface features through the action of wind and water). Although a plateau is usually considered a single landmass, some plateaus may be composed of numerous smaller plateaus. Such is the case with the Colorado Plateau in the four-corners region (where the boundaries of the four states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico meet) of the American Southwest. This plateau is actually a series of plateaus separated by north-south trending faults. A fault is a crack or fracture in Earth's crust along which rock on one side has moved relative to rock on the other. Unequal pressure beneath the Colorado Plateau, due to the heat forces contained within Earth, created stress in its surface. This resulted in faults. Separated by the faults, sections of the plateau moved upward by different degrees, creating differences in elevation across the plateau.
Plateaus are types of landforms that possess a flat top and are elevated thousands of feet above a surrounding area. These landforms can be found in every continent on the globe. In some areas of the world, the plateaus are at such an elevated height that living conditions are harsh, while plateaus in other locations offer more benign environments suitable for agriculture.
The Colorado Plateau located in the U.S. is a famous landform that spans 130,000 square miles (336,700 sq. km.). This particular plateau is circular in shape and spreads across the southeastern part of Utah, the northern section of Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and the western part of Colorado. The Deccan Plateau in India is another well-known plateau that was formed by lava millions of years ago. It spans about 300,000 square miles (770,000 sq. km.), and sprawls across the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. The Siberian Traps is a landform in Russia formed by lava millions of years ago as well. It spreads across 750,000 square miles (1,942,500 sq. km.). Tibet is home to the Tibetan Plateau, the highest and largest plateau in the world. A sprawling 888,000 square miles (2.3 million sq. km.), it covers an area about half the size of the connected 48 US states. This Tibetan...
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