Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Earth science

Making a mountain out of a plateau

A theory proposed in 2015 suggested that relatively flat surfaces in mountain ranges were formed by the reorganization of river networks. A fresh analysis rebuts this idea, reigniting discussion of a long-standing problem in Earth science.

Your institute does not have access to this article

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Characteristics of low-gradient mountain terrain depend on the formation mechanism.


  1. See all news & views


  1. Davis, W. M. Geogr. J. 14, 481–504 (1899).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Yang, R., Willett, S. D. & Goren, L. Nature 520, 526–529 (2015).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Whipple, K. X., DiBiase, R. A., Ouimet, W. B. & Forte, A. M. Geology 45, 91–94 (2017).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Clark, M. K. et al. J. Geophys. Res. 111, F03002 (2006).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Burbank, D. W. et al. Nature 379, 505–510 (1996).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Anderson, R. S., Riihimaki, C. A., Safran, E. B. & MacGregor, K. R. Geol. Soc. Am. Spec. Pap. 398, 397–418 (2006).

    Google Scholar 

  7. van der Beek, P. et al. Nature Geosci. 2, 364–368 (2009).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Babault, J., Van Den Driessche, J., Bonnet, S., Castelltort, S. & Crave, A. Tectonics 24, TC2010 (2005).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Willett, S. D., McCoy, S. W., Perron, J. T., Goren, L. & Chen, C.-Y. Science 343, 1248765 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Hallet, B. & Molnar, P. J. Geophys. Res. 106, 13697–13709 (2001).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Hugh Sinclair.

Related links

Related links

Related links in Nature Research

Earth science: Landscape inversion by stream piracy

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Sinclair, H. Making a mountain out of a plateau. Nature 542, 41–42 (2017).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing