What Does a Continental Shelf Look Like and How Is It Formed?

Almost one sixth of Earth’s surface is covered by continental shelves.

They extend into the ocean from a land mass up to approximately 250 miles (400 kilometers), forming the shallow areas nearest the coast. The surface of a continental shelf tends to be smooth, though it rises and descends in hills and valleys.

The shelf follows a gradual decline until abruptly dropping off at the end of the continental plate. There it meets the continental slope.

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