Q:

What is a mesa landform?

A:

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.

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

Related Questions

  • Q:

    How does an artesian well form?

    A:

    Artesian wells form when water flows through a permeable rock from a higher area to the area of the well. Artesian wells produce water flow without any additional pumping because of the water pressure in the rock, so they require a layer of impermeable rock beneath the permeable rock to block the flow downward. Thus, when a well is dug into the permeable rock, the water flows out under pressure.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    How do caves form?

    A:

    Caves are most commonly formed by the process of erosion. Caves may also be formed by the waves, lava flows or by bacteria that produce acid.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What is an example of a raised flat area?

    A:

    An example of a raised flat area is a plateau. A plateau is a large flat region of land higher than the other areas of land surrounding it.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    How do I describe a desert?

    A:

    A desert is described by the United States Geological Survey as an arid place with little rainfall and very little vegetation or animal life. USGS also describes deserts as being stark.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore