A mesa is a tall landform with a wide, flat top and steep sides. Mesa landforms are found throughout the American Southwest and in other arid regions of the world. The Spanish word "mesa" means table, as Spanish explorers thought these geological landforms looked like tabletops.Continue Reading
Mesas are made of layers of compressed sedimentary rock capped with a harder layer of rock that is resistant to erosion. This top layer is often a layer of cooled and hardened lava. The sedimentary layers below are softer and, over time, wear away with erosion.
Environmental forces shape these landforms and their surrounding areas. Mesas are generally found in areas that receive 20 inches of rain or less per year. When these arid and semiarid regions do get rain, they are pounded by sudden, heavy downpours. The water tends to evaporate quickly in these dry areas, limiting vegetation at the mesa's base. Exposed to the strong forces of wind and rain, the sides erode away relatively quickly in geologic time, resulting in a sloping base to the landform.
Mesas are related to both plateaus and buttes. Size differentiates them. In general, mesas have a surface area between 11, 251 square feet and 4 square miles. They are smaller in area than plateaus and larger in area than buttes, which have a surface area of less than 11,250 square feet.Learn more about Landforms
A beach is any type of landform that lies along the shoreline of a body of water. The shoreline of a beach is formed naturally by the geographical end of the body of water, but the sand on the beach is formed over many years.Full Answer >
Coastal plains are flat, low-lying pieces of land that feature a body of water on one side and some type of landform on the other. According to National Geographic, a coastal plain can form either as a continental shelf or when water currents carry sedimentary materials that build up over time.Full Answer >
A piedmont landform results due to changes in stream flow at the base of a mountain or range of mountains. The name comes from the Piedmont district of Italy. In the United States, the term describes the landforms between the Appalachians and the Atlantic coastal plains.Full Answer >
Sea arches form when waves are deflected to the sides by a point on the headland. These waves erode a plane of weakness on both sides of the headland creating an opening. The openings on each side eventually meet in the middle with stronger rock joining overhead.Full Answer >