What are some characteristics of basin and range topography?

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ncchemist | eNotes Employee

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In geology, basin and range topography is defined as an area where the topographical features are defined by alternating lines of basins and ranges.  In this case, a range is defined as a single line of mountains.  A basin is defined as a lower-lying area where the underlying rocks are sloped away from the edges toward the center.  It is caused by the movement of tectonic plates on the Earth's surface along small fault lines.  Where rock is pushed up, ranges occur.  Where plates thin out due to a stretching movement, basins occur.

Basin and range topography is characterized alternating lines of ranges and basins.  They are parallel with each other in alternating rows and can have the appearance from the sky of looking a bit like finger extensions.  Abrupt changes in elevation are common with mountains giving way immediately to flat areas.  Probably the most well known example of this type of topography is in the western US.  Making up portions of California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, it is referred to as the Basin and Range Province.  The most well known basin is Death Valley in California, and some of the ranges include the Snake Range in Nevada, the Panamint Range in California, and the White Mountains in both of those states.

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