Geographic features are characteristic features of the Earth, whether natural or artificial. Natural geographical features are made of ecosystems and landforms. For instance, physical environmental factors or terrain types are natural geographic features. On the other hand, other engineered forms or human settlements are referred to as artificial geographical features.
Types of Artificial Geographical Features
Artificial geographic features include bridges, highways, railroads, airports, dams, buildings, and reservoirs. They are part of the anthroposphere because they are geographic features made by man.
Planet Earth is replete with diverse physical features ranging from deserts and oceans to mountains and plains.
First, let’s examine the tallest geographical features of the Earth: Mountains. A mountain is a landform that grows conspicuously above its surroundings, typically having a relatively confined summit area with steep slopes. It is quite rare for mountains to exist individually; in many cases, they occur in ranges or elongated chains. For instance, Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world, is one of the mountains in the Himalayan Mountain chain. Mountains which make up about 20% of Earth’s landmass exist on all 7 continents.
At the base of some mountains, there are a series of foothills or “piedmont”. They are gradual rises in height and are a transition between mountains and plains. Away from the mountains, there are separate hills which exist on their own. Hills, just like mountains, are raised areas of the earth’s surface, however, they are less steep and not as high as mountains. U.S. Geological Survey says that there is no official disparity between mountains and hills. The United States and the United Kingdom used to describe hills as summits below 1,000 feet. However, in the mid-twentieth century, both countries discarded the definition.
Another geographical feature is the plateau. It is an area of highland that is significantly raised above the surrounding area.
There are 2 major types of plateau: Volcanic plateaus and dissected plateaus. A dissected plateau is formed due to upward motion in the Earth’s crust as a result of gradual collision of tectonic plates. This gives rise to a volcanic plateau being formed from many little volcanic eruptions that overtime accumulate slowly. Even though plateaus are higher than the surrounding terrain, they are different from mountain ranges as they are flat.
The mesa is another flat-topped elevation. It is an isolated, flat-topped hill or ridge which is bounded by steep escarpments from all sides and distinctly erects above a surrounding plain. Mesa consists of soft flat-lying sedimentary rocks insulated by durable layers of hard rock. These durable layers behave like a caprock which forms the flat summit.
Valleys lie in between some of the elevated geographical features. A valley is a stretched depression of the surface of the earth, popularly formed by rivers and occur between ranges of mountains and hills or on plains. Deep valleys formed by the tectonic plate movements are known as rift valleys, while very deep and narrow valleys of similar appearance are known as gorges.
A plain is another geographical feature which can be defined as any level area of the surface of the Earth which exhibits small local relief and gentle slopes. Plains vary largely in size, with the smallest one occupying up to 10 acres.