A plateau also called a high plain or a tableland, is an area of a highland, usually consisting of relatively flat terrain, that is raised significantly above the surrounding area.
There are two types of plateaus depending on their mode of formation – the volcanic plateaus formed through volcanic eruption and the dissecting plateaus formed by the uplifting in the Earth’s crust.
Plateaus can be formed by a number of processes, including upwelling of volcanic magma, extrusion of lava, and erosion by water and glaciers.
It takes millions of years for the raises, flat highlands to be built.
The high flat surface that defines a plateau can continue for hundreds or even thousands of kilometres.
The largest and highest plateau in the world is the Tibetan Plateau. It stretches approximately 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) north to south and 2,500 kilometres (1,600 miles) east to west. It is the world’s highest and largest plateau, with an area of 2,500,000 square kilometres (970,000 square miles). With an average elevation exceeding 4,500 metres (14,800 feet) and being surrounded by imposing mountain ranges that harbor the world’s two highest summits, Mount Everest and K2, the Tibetan Plateau is often referred to as “the Roof of the World”.
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 most of East Antarctica where there are no known mountains but rather 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) high of superficial ice and which spreads very slowly toward the surrounding coastline through enormous glaciers.
A large plateau in North America is the Colorado Plateau, which covers about 337,000 square kilometres (130,000 square miles) in Colorado, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. In northern Arizona and southern Utah the Colorado Plateau is bisected by the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon. Much of the Plateau’s landscape is related, in both appearance and geologic history, to the Grand Canyon.
A tepui 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.
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 meters (4,921 feet), while the summits reach heights of up to 4550 meters (14,928 feet). It is sometimes called “the Roof of Africa” due to its height and large area.
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 (273,000 square miles). It has an average elevation of between 305 and 460 meters (100 and 1,510 feet).
Table Mountain is the most famous landmark of South Africa. It is also the country’s most photographed attraction and its famous cable car took millions of people to its top. The main feature of Table Mountain is the level plateau approximately three kilometres (2 mi) from side to side, edged by impressive cliffs.
Monte Roraima, on the border of Brazil and Venezuela, is a sandstone plateau measuring 2,810 meters (9,219 ft) in height. Its harsh environment has resulted in around one third of its plant species being unique to the mountain. Monte Roraima is believed to have been the inspiration for Arthur Conan-Doyle’s (UK) The Lost World.
Some plateaus are under the ocean, like the Seychelles plateau or the Ontong Java Plateau.
The plural of plateau is plateaus or plateaux.