High Plains (United States)

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High Plains
A buffalo wallow on the High Plains.[1]
Physiographic regions of the United States. The High Plains region is the center yellow area designated 13d.[2]
Floor elevation1,800–7,000 ft (550–2,130 m)[3]
Length800 mi (1,300 km)
Width400 mi (640 km)
Area174,000 sq mi (450,000 km2) [3]
CountryUnited States

The High Plains are a subregion of the Great Plains. They are the western part of the Great Plains before the region reaches the Rocky Mountains.

The High Plains are in southeastern Wyoming, southwestern South Dakota, western Nebraska, eastern Colorado, western Kansas, eastern New Mexico, western Oklahoma, and south of the Texas Panhandle.[4] They are mostly in the Western United States, but also partly in the Midwest states of Nebraska, Kansas, and South Dakota.

Geologically, the high plains are caused by the same process as caused the Rockies. The cause is the westward movement of North America away from Eurasia, which has been going on for over 100 million years. As the continent moved west, it subducted plates under the western side, and stretched out its eastern side. This explains why the western states all have some mountainous terrain, and the eastern states in the south are so low-lying.[5]

From east to west, the High Plains rise in elevation from around 1,160 feet (350 m) to over 7,800 feet (2,400 m).[3] The High Plains has a "cold semi-arid" climate—Köppen BSk—they get between 10–20 inches (250–510 mm) of precipitation annually.

Due to low moisture and high elevation, the High Plains get extremes of temperature. The temperature range from day to night is usually 30 °F (17 °C), and 24-hour temperature shifts of 100 °F (56 °C) are possible.

In Browning, Montana from January 23, 1916 to January 24, 1916, the temperature fell from 44 to −56 °F (7 to −49 °C). This is the world record for the greatest temperature change in 24 hours.[6] The region is known for the steady, and sometimes intense, winds that come from the west. These add a considerable wind chill factor in the winter. The development of wind farms in the High Plains is one of the latest areas of economic development.

The High Plains has one of the lowest population densities of any region in the continental United States; Wyoming, for example, has the second lowest population density in the country after Alaska.

References[change | change source]

  1. Darton, Nelson Horatio (1920). Syracuse-Lakin folio, Kansas. Folios of the Geologic Atlas, No. 212: United States Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey. p. 17 (plate 2). Archived from the original on 4 October 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2010.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location (link)
  2. "Physiographic Regions". U.S. Department of the Interior. U.S. Geological Survey. Archived from the original on 15 May 2006. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "USGS High Plains Aquifer WLMS". U.S. Department of the Interior. U.S. Geological Survey. Archived from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-06.
  4. File:Level III ecoregions, United States.png
  5. Elsewhere on this wiki, we explain how the Alleghanian and Appalachian Mountains in the east are the product of a much earlier period in the history of the Earth.
  6. "Top Ten Montana Weather Events of the 20th Century". National Weather Service Unveils Montana's Top Ten Weather/Water/Climate Events of the 20th Century. National Weather Service. Retrieved 2015-06-01.