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Plateaus are landforms that have a flat top and are elevated far above the surrounding area. They can be found in every continent on the globe, and in some areas of the world, they are at such an elevated height that living conditions are harsh. In other locations, these landforms offer more benign environments suitable for agriculture.
In most cases, the level area of a plateau rises about 1,500 feet (457 meters) above the surface of the surrounding ground. In order to be meet the definition of this landform, it must possess at least one steep side. Some of these areas were formed as a result of upward movements of the Earth's crust.
Other plateaus were formed as sections of the Earth's crust collided with another, and these particular ones are situated between mountains. Lava flows have also been responsible for forming them, elevating the ground as it flowed across the surface of the land. Such landforms formed by lava are called basalt or lava plateaus. Still others are created because of the erosion of land.
Different types of smaller landforms can develop on these areas. As water sculpts these natural structures, it creates domes, mesas, buttes, towers, rock bridges, rock arches, and other natural structures. Plateaus built from sedentary rock will possess horizontal layers of rock and will have flat tops. Those built on rocks featuring different types of hardness will result in landforms that can be pointed or level.
The Colorado Plateau, located in the U.S., is a famous landform that spans 130,000 square miles (336,700 sq. km.). This particular area 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 landform 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 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 landform boasts an elevation of more than 16,400 feet (5,000 m.).