What are Geographical Features?
A discussion of various geographical or geophysical features. The features discussed are: Plateaus, deserts, deltas, mesas, basins, foothills, marshes, and swamps. Plateaus are elevated regions that are flat on top. Deserts are large areas that receive less than 10 inches of precipitation a year. Antarctica is the world’s largest desert. It receives less than 2 inches of precipitation a year in the form of snow. The Sahara Desert (the world’s largest non-polar desert) by contrast receives more precipitation in a year. Deltas are areas at the mouths of rivers. They are very fertile because the rivers continually carry fresh sediment and soil to the region. Mesas are similar to plateaus because they are flat on top, but mesas exists on the top of steep mountains or high hills. Basins are areas of low elevation where rivers drain. Foothills represent a transition area between plains and mountains. Marshes and Swamps are highly vegetated, wet, lowlands.
There are many commonly identified geographical features. Plateaus are elevated, but they are flat on top. Some plateaus are very dry, such as the Kenya plateau, because surrounding mountains prevent them from receiving moisture, either in the form of rainfall or simply clouds and humidity being able to develop in that area. Some plateaus are very dry, but not all of them.
All plateaus are going to be elevated areas that are flat on top. Plateau, flat. Remember “plat, flat” and that will help you remember. Plateaus are the flat areas. That is what makes it a very specific geographical feature, that they’re flat on top. Deserts are another common geographical feature. Deserts receive less than 10 inches of rain per year.
That’s what classifies an area as a desert, where you may see receive a couple of inches of rain overnight, a desert is only going to see 10 inches of rain or less per year. They are usually large areas. You won’t usually find a small area that is classified as a desert. It’s usually going to be a really large area, such as the Sahara Desert in Africa or the Australian outback, because if there’s an area that’s only receiving 10 inches of rain per year, it’s usually going to be a geographic location spread out over a large area and then slowly transitions into areas with more rain. You usually won’t find just one little spot.
Deltas occur at river mouths. Because rivers carry sediment down to the delta, these areas are often very fertile. Deltas of rivers would be good areas to grow crops, because lots of sediment with new fresh nutrients would constantly be transported down to that delta area. Mesas are flat steep-sided mountains or hills. This term is also sometimes used to refer to plateaus.
A mesa is different in that it’s the top of a steep-sided mountain or hill, where plateaus could be elevated, but they don’t necessarily have to be at the top of a mountain or a hill. They could just be raised up and then go for a really long way without being the top of a mountain or a hill. It could just be a big break in elevation. The term plateau can still be used for mesas, because plateaus are flat areas of land.
Basins are areas of low elevation where rivers drain. You’ve heard of river basins probably. Where a river winds its course, the basin is the area that’s kind of carved out by the river and that is a lower elevation than the surrounding land. Hills are the transition area between the plains and the mountains. Flat, lower lands and high mountains. They are usually made up of hills that gradually increase in size as they get closer to the mountain range.
With foothills, you have a flat plain, then slowly you have higher and higher hills until you get to the mountain peaks. Last, we have marshes and swamps. These are also low lands, like your basin, but they are very wet and usually spread out. They are largely covered in vegetation such as reeds and rushes, where a river basin could still hold shrubbery and trees.
Marshes and swamps are going to be so saturated with water almost year round, that the only things that can grow there are water plants, such as reeds and rushes. There are other geographical features. We mentioned mountains, we mentioned rivers, we mentioned plains, all of those are geographical features. These are just some that you might not see as commonly, but they’re still important for you to know.