continental shelf


continental shelf

noun

: the part of a continent that lies under the ocean and slopes down to the ocean floor

Full Definition of CONTINENTAL SHELF

:  a shallow submarine plain of varying width forming a border to a continent and typically ending in a comparatively steep slope to the deep ocean floor

Illustration of CONTINENTAL SHELF

First Known Use of CONTINENTAL SHELF

1892

continental shelf

noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

The broad, gentle pitch of the continental shelf gives way to the relatively steep continental …—Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Broad, relatively shallow submarine platform that forms a border to a continent, typically extending from the coast to depths of 330–660 ft (100–200 m). Continental shelves average about 40 mi (65 km) in width. Almost everywhere they are simply a continuation of the continental landmass: narrow, rough, and steep off mountainous coasts but broad and comparatively level offshore from plains. Continental shelves are usually covered with a layer of sand, silts, and silty muds. Their surfaces feature small hills and ridges that alternate with shallow depressions and valley-like troughs. In a few cases, steep-walled V-shaped submarine canyons cut deeply into both the shelf and the slope below.

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