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For other meanings, see Plateau (disambiguation).
Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park

In geology and earth science, a plateau (/pləˈt/ or /ˈplæt/; plural plateaus or plateaux), also called a high plain or tableland, is an area of highland, usually consisting of relatively flat terrain.


Plateaus can be formed by a number of processes, including upwelling of volcanic magma, extrusion of lava, and erosion by water and glaciers. Magma rises from the mantle causing the ground to swell upward, in this way large, flat areas of rock are uplifted. Plateaus can also be built up by 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. 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.[1]


Plateaus are classified according to their surrounding environment.

  • Intermontane plateaus are the highest in the world, bordered by mountains. The Tibetan Plateau is one such plateau.
  • Piedmont plateaus are bordered on one side by mountains and on the other by a plain or sea.
  • Continental plateaus are bordered on all sides by the plains or seas, forming away from mountains.
  • Volcanic plateaus are produced by volcanic activity. The Columbia Plateau in the northwestern United States of America is one such plateau.
  • Dissected plateaus are highly eroded plateaus cut by rivers and broken by deep narrow valleys.

Major plateaus[edit]

The largest and highest plateau in the world is the Tibetan Plateau, called 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 south.

The second-highest plateau is Deosai National Park (also known as Deoasai Plains) at an average elevation of 4,114 m (13,497 ft) and is located in the Skardu District of 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 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
Bogotá, Colombia is located in a high plateau, over 8,600 ft (2,600 m) high

The third-largest plateau is the Antarctic Plateau, which covers most of central Antarctica, where there are no known mountains, but rather 3,000 m (9,800 ft) or more of ice - which very slowly spreads toward the coastline via enormous glaciers. This ice cap is so massive that echolocation sound measurements of the thickness of the ice have shown that large parts of the "dry land" surface of Antarctica have been pressed below sea level. Thus, if the icecap were suddenly removed, large areas of Antarctica would be flooded by the oceans. On the other hand - more realistically - were the icecap to gradually melt away, the surface of the land beneath it would gradually rebound/[Isostasy] away from the center of the Earth, and that land would ultimately rise above sea level.

North America[edit]

The largest plateau in North America is the Colorado Plateau, which covers about 337,000 km2 (130,000 sq mi) in Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.[2]

In northern Arizona and southern Utah the Colorado Plateau is bisected by the Colorado 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

South America[edit]

Main article: Tepui

A tepui /ˈtɛpwi/, or tepuy (Spanish: [teˈpui]), is a table-top mountain or mesa found in the Guiana Highlands of South America, especially in 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 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 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.

See also[edit]


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

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plateau — Please support Wikipedia.
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48703 news items

Foreign Policy (blog)

Foreign Policy (blog)
Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:45:42 -0700

U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, is in India this week for his first formal interaction with the newly elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government. This will be the first U.S. cabinet-level visit to New Delhi with the Modi government ...
Tue, 29 Jul 2014 16:15:00 -0700

Jos — Governor Jonah Jang and his son, Yakubu, the Special Duties Adviser to the Plateau State governor, know the game of politics on the Plateau very well and play it effectively when it matters most. The father and son, who are active players in the ...


Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:37:30 -0700

Five couples tie the knot in a group wedding held in front of the No. 7 boundary demarcation at the Khunjerab Pass of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on July 30, 2014. Five grooms, who are border military officers in the Khunjerab Frontier Defence ...
Wed, 30 Jul 2014 16:03:45 -0700

Plateau North Political Front is a pressure group working for the interest of the northern senatorial district of the state on the Plateau. The Chairman of the group, Hon. Daniel Izang, is a one-time Chairman of Jos East Local Government Council and ...
Coquitlam Now
Tue, 29 Jul 2014 16:03:45 -0700

Coquitlam Mounties have blocked off an area in the Westwood Plateau for an "ongoing investigation." RCMP Cpl. Jamie Chung confirmed police have been dealing with an incident near Plateau Boulevard and Sugarpine Court, but offered no details. He said ...
Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:30:00 -0700

Jos — Plateau State government has expressed satisfaction with the ongoing efforts by the Special Task Force saddled with the responsibility of clearing street traders, hawkers, illegal motor parks and indiscriminate parking of vehicles by motorists ...
The Tri-City News
Thu, 31 Jul 2014 11:22:30 -0700

The 44-year-old father of four had left his Westwood Plateau home on the morning of July 3 to go for a walk in the Eagle Mountain area. He was spotted later that afternoon near the playing fields, and Coquitlam Search and Rescue was brought in to help ...
Seaside Courier
Tue, 29 Jul 2014 10:26:15 -0700

Too much routine will leave you bored and can slide you into a plateau. Find new ways to challenge your body like Curves Workouts with Jillian Michaels, which include resistance training and cardio and change each month. Thirty minutes and you're done.

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