Section 1: Exploring Earth’s Surface

is the arrangement of both the natural and artificial physical features of a particular region.  In other words, it is the shape of land.  Words like flat, sloping, hilly, or mountainous might all be used to describe the topography of a particular area.  Topographic maps include an area’s elevation, relief, and landform.  The topography of a particular area is often described by its elevation.  Elevation refers to the height a point on Earth’s surface is above sea level.  The relief is the difference in elevation between the highest and lowest parts of an area.  A landform is a feature of topography, such as a hill or a valley, formed by the processes that shape the earth’s surface.  A landform region is a large area of land where the topography is made up of mostly one type of landform such as uplands, lowlands, or a basin.

Landforms are the basic features of the earth, and they vary greatly in shape and size.  There are three main types of landforms.  The plains are landforms that are made up of nearly flat or gently rolling land with a low relief.  A coastal plain is a plain that lies along a seacoast with low elevation and low relief.  An interior plain is a plain that lies away from a coast with low relief and elevation that varies.

A mountain is a landform with high elevation and high relief, and it usually occurs as part of a mountain range.  A mountain range is a group of mountains that are closely related in shape, structure, and age.  A mountain system includes the different mountains in a region.  For example, the Bitterroot Mountains are a mountain range in the Rocky Mountains.  A mountain belt is a larger unit of mountain ranges and mountain systems in a long, connected chain.  Finally, plateaus are a type of landform with a high elevation and a more or less level surface.

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