Classification of Plateaus

On the basis of their geographical location and structure of rocks, the plateaus can be classified as –

  • (a) Intermontane Plateaus
  • (b) Piedmont Plateaus
  • (c) Continental Plateaus

Intermontane Plateau

The plateau which are bordering the fold mountain range or are partly or fully enclosed within them are the intermontane plateaus.


Vertical movements raise this extensive landforms of nearly horizontal rocks to thousands of metres above sea level.

  • The extensive and over 4500 metres high plateau of Tibet is one such example. It is surrounded by folded mountains like Himalayas, Karakoram, Kunlun, Tien Shah on its two sides.
  • The plateau of Colorado is another well known example, over one km high into which rivers have cut the Grand Canyon and a series of gorges.
  • The plateau of Mexico, Bolivia and Iran are all other examples of this type.

Piedmont Plateau

The plateaus that are situated at the foot of the mountains and are bounded on other sides by a plain or an ocean are called piedmont plateau.


The plateau of Malwa in India, those of Patagonia facing the Atlantic ocean and the Appallachian situated between the Appalachian Mountain and the Atlantic Coastal Plain in U.S.A are their examples. In their case, the areas once high have now been reduced by various agents of erosion. For this reason, these are also called the plateaus of denudation.

Continental plateau

These are formed either by an extensive continental uplift or by the spread of horizontal basic lava sheets completely covering the original topography to a great depth.


The volcanic lava covered plateau of Maharashtra in India, Snake River Plateau in North West USA are the examples of this type. These are also, called the plateau of accumulation.

All continental plateaus show an abrupt elevation in contrast to the nearby lowland or the sea. As compared to other, these plateaus, cover a vast area like the Great Indian Plateau and those of Arabia, Spain, Greenland, Africa and Australia. They may be tilted on one side without any disturbance in the horizontal nature of underlying rock strata as in the case of Great Indian plateau.


The plateau which are bordering or are enclosed within high mountain ranges are called intermontane plateau.
The plateaus formed by the uplift of large areas or by the gradual spread and accumulation of basic lava sheets are called continental plateau.
The plateaus which are situated at the foot of mountains and are bounded by a plain or an ocean on the other side are called piedmont plateaus.


Bibliography : NIOS Geography Book


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