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An escarpment is a steep slope or long cliff that forms as a result of faulting or erosion and separates two relatively level areas having different elevations. Usually scarp and scarp face are used interchangeably with escarpment.
Some sources differentiate the two terms, however, where escarpment refers to the margin between two landforms (while scarp remains synonymous with a cliff or steep slope). In this usage an escarpment is a ridge which has a gentle slope on one side and a steep scarp on the other side.
More loosely, the term scarp also describes a zone between a coastal lowland and a continental plateau which shows a marked, abrupt change in elevation caused by coastal erosion at the base of the plateau.
Formation and description
Scarps are generally formed by one of two processes: either by differential erosion of sedimentary rocks, or by movement of the Earth's crust at a geologic fault. The first is the more common type: the escarpment is a transition from one series of sedimentary rocks to another series of a different age and composition. Escarpments are also frequently formed by faults. When a fault displaces the ground surface so that one side is higher than the other, a fault scarp is created. This can occur in dip-slip faults, or when a strike-slip fault brings a piece of high ground adjacent to an area of lower ground.
Earth is not the only planet where escarpments occur. They are believed to occur on other planets when the crust contracts, as a result of cooling. On other Solar System bodies such as Mercury, Mars, and the Moon, the Latin term rupes is used for an escarpment.
When sedimentary beds are tilted and exposed to the surface, erosion and weathering may occur. Escarpments erode gradually and over geological time. The mélange tendencies of escarpments results in varying contacts between a multitude of rock types. These different rock types weather at different speeds, according to Goldich dissolution series so different stages of deformation can often be seen in the layers where the escarpments have been exposed to the elements.
- Elgeyo escarpment (Great Rift Valley)
- Great Escarpment, Southern Africa
- Bandiagara Escarpment (Mali)
- Zambezi Escarpment (Zambia)
- East coast, (Madagascar)
- Vindhya Range (India)
- Alam-Kuh (Iran)
- Western Ghats (India)
- Tuwaiq (Saudi Arabia)
- Wulian Feng (China)
Australia and New Zealand
- New Zealand
- Sweden, Estonia and Russia
- Victoria Lines
- Florida Escarpment, Gulf of Mexico
- Sigsbee Escarpment, Gulf of Mexico
- Canada and the United States
- Manitoba Escarpment (Manitoba, Saskatchewan)
- Pembina Escarpment (Manitoba, North Dakota)
- Niagara Escarpment (Ontario, Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Wisconsin)
- Eardley Escarpment (Mattawa Fault, Gatineau Park, Quebec)
- Onondaga (geological formation) (Ontario and New York)
- Devil's Rock (Lake Temiskaming, Ontario)
- Scarborough Bluffs (Toronto, Ontario)
- United States
- Allegheny Front (Maryland–Pennsylvania–West Virginia)
- Balcones Fault (Texas)
- Bergen Hill (New Jersey)
- Book Cliffs (Colorado–Utah)
- Caprock Escarpment (Texas)
- Catskill Escarpment (New York)
- The Chinese Wall (Montana)
- Cody Scarp (Florida)
- Devil's Slide (California)
- Helderberg Escarpment (New York)
- Hell's Half Acre (Wyoming)
- Knobstone Escarpment (Indiana)
- Mescalero Ridge (New Mexico)
- Missouri Escarpment (North Dakota)
- Mogollon Rim (Arizona)
- Muldraugh Hill (Kentucky)
- Pine Ridge (Nebraska–South Dakota)
- Portage Escarpment (Ohio)
- Potrero Hills in (California)
- Pottsville Escarpment (Kentucky–Tennessee)
- The Rimrocks (Montana)
- Sierra Nevada eastern slope (California)
- The Caribbean
- Cuesta – A hill or ridge with a gentle slope on one side and a steep slope on the other
- Fall line
- List of geological features on Mercury – Wikimedia list article
- Easterbrook, D. J. (1999) Surface processes and landforms. (Second Ed). Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.
- Summary: Escarpments, US Army Corps of Engineers.
- Lidmar-Bergström, Karna (1988). "Denudation surfaces of a shield area in southern Sweden". Geografiska Annaler. 70 A (4): 337–350. doi:10.2307/521267.