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Major Landforms on Earth

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A landform is a surface feature of the Earth that is part of the landscape. The four major types of landforms are as follows-

  1. Mountains
  2. Hills
  3. Plateaus
  4. Plains. 

Minor landforms are canyons, buttes, valleys, and basins. Tectonic plate movement beneath the Earth can generate landforms by pushing up mountains and hills. Water and wind erosion can erode the ground. It results in valleys and canyons. Both operations require a long time, maybe millions of years, to complete. Mount Everest is the world’s tallest landform. It is situated at an elevation of 8,850 meters above sea level. It is part of the Himalayan mountain range, which stretches over several Asian countries. Landforms such as mountain ranges and sea basins can exist underwater.


A mountain is a landform that rises above its surroundings and is defined by steep slopes and strong local relief. Mountains are commonly thought to be larger than hills. Mountains rarely appear on their own. They are usually found in long chains or ranges. A mountain belt is formed when a number of such mountains are joined together.

A mountain belt can range in width from tens to hundreds of kilometers and in length from hundreds to thousands of kilometers. Plateaus can be found in many mountain ranges, and they stand tall yet have limited relief. The elevation of these terrains is higher than that of the surrounding areas. Inside mountain belts and ranges, high relief can also be seen. Individual mountains, mountain ranges, and mountain belts, on the other hand, are typically identified by distinct characteristics generated by different tectonic processes.

Mountains and mountain belts occur as a result of tectonic processes that have produced and maintained high heights in the face of erosion. The factors that build the higher terrain, as well as the forces that sustain it and the processes that destroy it, shape the topography of a mountain belt. In fact, before moving on to further concerns, it’s critical to grasp the forces that support elevated terrains.

Features of Mountains

  1. A mountain is steeper than a hill.
  2. Mountains are being eroded continuously by rivers, weather, and glaciers.
  3. Temperatures are colder at high mountain heights than at sea level.
  4. Mountains are used less for agriculture and more for resource development due to the hilly terrain.
  5. A mountain often has a pointy peak.


A hill is a landform that rises above the rest of the landscape. It usually has a prominent peak. Hills can arise as a result of geomorphic processes such as faulting, erosion of larger landforms such as mountains, and glacier movement and sediment deposition. Downhill creep is caused by the diffusive movement of the hill’s soil and regolith, which results in the rounded summits of hills. Many of the names of hills originated in one geographical region to identify a type of hill formation unique to that region, but they are frequently adopted by geologists and used in a broader geographical context. 


A plateau is a huge area of flat ground that is usually flanked on all sides by an escarpment but can also be surrounded by mountains. Plateaus require little relative relief and a certain amount of elevation. Plateaus are unlike mountain ranges in that they are completely flat. Some plateaus, such as the Deccan plateau in central India, are separated from mountain ranges by large distances.

A plateau’s high flat surface can extend for hundreds or even thousands of kilometers. River-cut plateaus have surprisingly constant maximum elevations, but their surfaces can be disrupted by deep valleys. In the case of some plateaus, the surface is so dissected that there is no flat ground to be seen. Instead, the highest ridges and mountains with a continuous elevation constitute such a plateau. Mountain ranges are formed by three types of tectonic processes: volcanism, crustal shortening, and thermal expansion. The lithosphere thermal expansion is the most fundamental of these.


A plain is a very level area of the Earth’s surface with modest slopes and minor local relief. Plains come in a variety of sizes. The tiniest cover only a few hectares, while the largest cover hundreds of thousands of square kilometers. With the exception of Antarctica, plains make up less than a third of the total land area. They can be found north of the Arctic Circle, in the tropics, and in the mid-latitudes. The world’s plains have a wide range of vegetation that reflects their diverse geographical distribution. Some are wooded, while others are grassy.

The dominance of erosional and depositional processes over tectonic activity, such as crustal elevation or subsidence, resulted in the formation of the majority of the world’s greatest plains. In places of substantial crustal deformation, however, a large number of smaller plains arose. The bulk of these are depressing crustal portions that have been partially filled with sand, clay, and rock debris carried in by nearby streams.

Plains, with a few exceptions, have become significant centers of population, industry, trade, and transportation. Their flat surfaces are easily cultivated, and they usually have the most productive soil. Low-lying areas present few obstacles to land transportation, and rivers that flow through them are frequently easier to navigate than those in more rugged terrain.

Conceptual Questions

Question 1: What is erosion?


Erosion is the wearing away of the Earth’s surface. The process of erosion is lowering the surface.

Question 2: What are the reasons for erosion and deposition?


Running water, ice, and wind all contribute to erosion and deposition.

Question 3: Are all mountains similar?


No, not all mountains are the same. Mountains vary in height and shape, as well as in the nature of their development.

Question 4: What is horsts and graben?


The raised blocks in the development of Block Mountains are known as horsts, and the lower blocks are known as graben.

Question 5: How are the landforms made?


Landforms are formed by two processes. The ‘internal process’ causes the Earth’s surface to rise and fall. Second, the external process is the constant wear and tear on the land surface.

Last Updated : 22 Jun, 2022
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