In geomorphology, an escarpment is a transition zone between different physiogeographic provinces that involves a sharp, steep elevation differential, characterized by a cliff or steep slope. Escarpment is generally used interchangeably with scarp (from the Italian "scarpa" [ [ "scarp" - Definition from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary] ] ). Some sources will differentiate between an escarpment and scarp. Escarpment then refers to the margin between two landforms, while scarp refers to or is synonymous with a cliff or steep slope.Easterbrook, D. J. (1999) Surface processes and landforms. (Second Ed). Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.] [ [ Summary: Escarpments] , US Army Corps of Engineers.] The surface of the steep slope is called a scarp face. Scarps are generally formed by one of two processes: either by differential erosion of sedimentary rocks, or by vertical movement of the Earth's crust along a fault (faulting).

Most commonly, an escarpment is a transition from one series of sedimentary rocks to another series of a different age and composition. When sedimentary beds are tilted and exposed to the surface, erosion and weathering may occur differentially based on the composition. Less resistant rocks will erode faster, retreating until the point they are overlain by more resistant rock (see cross section schematic). When the dip of the bedding is gentle, a cuesta is formed. Steeper dips (greater than 30-40°) form hogbacks.

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.

More loosely, the term scarp describes the zone between coastal lowlands and continental plateaus which have a marked, abrupt change in elevation caused by coastal erosion at the base of the plateau.

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.

ignificant escarpments


*Elgeyo escarpment (Great Rift Valley)
*God's Window (South Africa)
*Great Escarpment (South Africa)
*Bandiagara Escarpment (Mali)
*Zambezi Escarpment (Zambia)
*Scarp of Angola (Angola)


* Usas Escarpment


* Vindhyan Escarpment (India)

Australia and New Zealand

* Australia
**Darling Scarp
**Dorrigo Plateau
**Illawarra Escarpment
*New Zealand
**The western slope of the Southern Alps (along the Alpine Fault)
**The Kaimai escarpment, above the Hauraki Plains


**Cotswold escarpment
**North Downs
**South Downs
**A colloquial adjective to describe escarpments in England is "edge" as in
***Alderley Edge
***Edge Hill famous as the place of the first battle of the English Civil War.
***Kinver Edge
***The Lincoln Edge
***Wenlock Edge
**La Côte d'Or is famous for its wines and has given its name to a département, Côte-d'Or.
**Le Pays de Bray, a clay vale enclosed by chalk escarpments.
**Swabian Alb
*Sweden, Estonia and Russia
**Baltic Klint
**Victoria Lines

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North America

*Canada and the United States
**Niagara Escarpment (Ontario, Illinois, Michigan, New York, and Wisconsin)
**Onondaga (geological formation) (Ontario and New York)
**Devil's Rock (Lake Temiskaming, Ontario)
*United States
**Allegheny Front (Pennsylvania-Maryland-West Virginia)
**Balcones Fault (Texas)
**Caprock Escarpment (Texas)
**Catskill Escarpment (New York)
**Cody Scarp (Florida)
**Elkhorn Scarp (San Andreas Fault)
**Highland Rim encircling the Nashville Basin (actually a geologic dome) in Middle Tennessee
**Knobstone Escarpment Southern Indiana
**Mescalero Escarpment (New Mexico)
**Missouri Escarpment (North Dakota)
**Mogollon Rim (Arizona)
**Muldraugh Hill (Kentucky)
**Nickel Escarpment, formally Sigsbee Escarpment, Gulf of Mexico
**Pine Ridge (Nebraska and South Dakota)
**Pottsville Escarpment (Kentucky-Tennessee; see Cumberland Plateau)
**Sierra Nevada range (eastern slope) in California.

See also

* Cuesta
* Fall line
* List of scarps on Mercury


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  • escarpment — 1802, from Fr. escarpment, from escarper make into a steep slope, from escarpe slope, from It. scarpa (see SCARP (Cf. scarp)). Earlier in same sense was ESCARP (Cf. escarp) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Escarpment — Es*carp ment, n. [Cf. F. escarpement.] A steep descent or declivity; steep face or edge of a ridge; ground about a fortified place, cut away nearly vertically to prevent hostile approach. See {Scarp}. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • escarpment — ► NOUN ▪ a long, steep slope at the edge of a plateau or separating areas of land at different heights. ORIGIN French escarpement, from Italian scarpa slope …   English terms dictionary

  • escarpment — [e skärp′mənt] n. [Fr escarpement < escarpe: see ESCARP] 1. a steep slope or cliff formed by erosion or, less often, by faulting 2. ground formed into a steep slope on the exterior of a fortification: See also SCARP …   English World dictionary

  • escarpment — UK [ɪˈskɑː(r)pmənt] / US [ɪˈskɑrpmənt] noun [countable] Word forms escarpment : singular escarpment plural escarpments a steep slope that forms the edge of a long area of high land …   English dictionary

  • escarpment — [[t]ɪskɑ͟ː(r)pmənt[/t]] escarpments N COUNT An escarpment is a wide, steep slope on a hill or mountain …   English dictionary

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