What Does a Plateau Look Like?

A plateau is a raised area of land, much like a mountain with a flat-looking top. A plateau may have one or more steep sides. Plateaus occur in various areas of the world and have different visual characteristics such as grasslands or desert terrain.

Different types of plateaus such as a mesa or butte have varying degrees of flatness. The world's largest plateau is the Tibetan Plateau and is referred to as the roof of the world because it is over 3 miles above sea level. The second-largest plateau in the world is in northern Pakistan. In the spring it is covered with flowers and a wide array of butterflies. Antarctica is home to the third-largest plateau in the world, and it is covered with a giant icecap.

Plateaus such as the Tibetan Plateau form when tectonic plates collide. More commonly, plateaus form when magma pushes towards the surface of the Earth but does not break through the crust. The magma lifts the flat rock up, forming a plateau. Lava that does break through the Earth's crust can also spread out and create a plateau as it cools. An example of this type of plateau is the Deccan Plateau in India.