THE MIGHTY CHUNKS rise all over the world, including the oceans. They usually have steep, sloping sides and sharp or rounded ridges, and a high point, called a peak or summit. Most geologists classify a mountain as a landform that rises at least 1,000 feet (300 meters) or more above its surrounding area. A mountain range is a series or chain of mountains that are close together.
They define landscapes, people risk their lives to climb them, and they can even make their own weather.
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A mountain is a large landform that rises above the surrounding land in a limited area, usually in the form of a peak. A mountain is generally considered to be steeper than a hill. Mountains are formed through tectonic forces or volcanism. These forces can locally raise the surface of the Earth.
The world’s tallest mountain ranges form when pieces of Earth’s crust—called plates—smash against each other in a process called plate tectonics, and buckle up like the hood of a car in a head-on collision. The Himalaya in Asia formed from one such massive wreck that started about 55 million years ago. Thirty of the world’s highest mountains are in the Himalaya. The summit of Mount Everest, at 29,035 feet (8,850 meters), is the highest point on Earth.
List of Major Mountain Ranges of the World
- The Alps Mountain Range.
- The Atlas Mountains Range.
- The Andes Mountain Range.
- The Rockies Mountain Range.
What different types of Mountains are there?
- Fold Mountains (Folded Mountains)
- Fault-block Mountains (Block Mountains)
- Dome Mountains.
- Volcanic Mountains.
- Plateau Mountains.
How Are Mountains Formed?
Fold mountains are the most common type of mountain. The world’s largest mountain ranges are fold mountains. These ranges were formed over millions of years.
Fold mountains are formed when two plates collide head on, and their edges crumbled, much the same way as a piece of paper folds when pushed together.
The upward folds are known as anticlines, and the downward folds are synclines.
Examples of fold mountains include:
- Himalayan Mountains in Asia
- the Alps in Europe
- the Andes in South America
- the Rockies in North America
- the Urals in Russia
The Himalayan Mountains were formed when India crashed into Asia and pushed up the tallest mountain range on the continents.
In South America, the Andes Mountains were formed by the collision of the South American continental plate and the oceanic
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Two Tectonic Plates meet along the Southern Alps. This is called a fault line. The Southern Alps are constantly changing because the Pacific Plate is being pushed down under the Australian Plate and that causes the Alps to rise up.
Other types of mountains form when stresses within and between the tectonic plates lead to cracking and faulting of the Earth’s surface, which forces blocks of rock up and down. Examples of fault-block mountains include the Sierra Nevada in California and Nevada, the Tetons in Wyoming, and the Harz Mountains in Germany.
These mountains form when faults or cracks in the earth’s crust force some materials or blocks of rock up and others down.
Instead of the earth folding over, the earth’s crust fractures (pulls apart). It breaks up into blocks or chunks. Sometimes these blocks of rock move up and down, as they move apart and blocks of rock end up being stacked on one another.
Often fault-block mountains have a steep front side and a sloping back side.
Examples of fault-block mountains include:
- the Sierra Nevada mountains in North America
- the Harz Mountains in Germany
When magma pushes the crust up but hardens before erupting onto the surface, it forms so-called dome mountains. Wind and rain pummel the domes, sculpting peaks and valleys. Examples include the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Plateau mountains are similar to dome mountains, but form as colliding tectonic plates push up the land without folding or faulting. They are then shaped by weathering and erosion.
Dome mountains are the result of a great amount of melted rock (magma) pushing its way up under the earth crust. Without actually erupting onto the surface, the magma pushes up overlaying rock layers. At some point, the magma cools and forms hardened rock. The uplifted area created by rising magma is called a dome because of looking like the top half of a sphere (ball). The rock layers over the hardened magma are warped upward to form the dome. But the rock layers of the surrounding area remain flat.
As the dome is higher than its surroundings, erosion by wind and rain occurs from the top. This
results in a circular mountain range. Domes that have been worn away in places form many
separate peaks called Dome Mountains.
As the name suggests, volcanic mountains are formed by volcanoes.
Volcanic Mountains are formed when molten rock (magma) deep within the earth, erupts, and piles upon the surface. Magna is called lava when it breaks through the earth’s crust. When the ash and lava cools, it builds a cone of rock. Rock and lava pile up, layer on top of layer.
Volcanic mountains form when molten rock from deep inside the Earth erupts through the crust and piles up on itself. The islands of Hawaii were formed by undersea volcanoes, and the islands seen above water today are the remaining volcano tops. Well-known volcanoes on land include Mount St. Helens in Washington State and Mount Fuji in Japan. Sometimes volcanic eruptions break down mountains instead of building them up, like the 1980 eruption that blew the top off Mount St. Helens.
The tallest mountain measured from top to bottom is Mauna Kea, an inactive volcano on the island of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean. Measured from the base, Mauna Kea stands 33,474 feet (10,203 meters) tall, though it only rises 13,796 feet (4,205 meters) above the sea.
Examples of volcanic mountains include:
- Mount St. Helens in North America
- Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines
- Mount Kea and Mount Loa in Hawaii
Plateau Mountains (Erosion Mountains)
Plateau mountains are often found near folded mountains. As years pass, streams and rivers erode valleys through the plateau, leaving mountains standing between the valleys.
Plateau mountains are not formed by internal activity. Instead, these mountains are formed by erosion. Plateaus are large flat areas that have been pushed above sea level by forces within the Earth, or have been formed by layers of lava. The dictionary describes these as large areas of ‘high levels’ of flat land, over 600 meters above
The mountains in New Zealand are examples of plateau mountains.
Impact of Mountains on Habitats and Geopolitics
Mountains often serve as geographic features that define natural borders of countries. Their height can influence weather patterns, stalling storms that roll off the oceans and squeezing water from the clouds. The other side is often much drier. The rugged landscapes even provide refuge—and protection—for fleeing and invading armies.
The longest mountain range on Earth is called the mid-ocean ridge. Spanning 40,389 miles around the globe, it’s truly a global landmark. About 90 percent of the mid-ocean ridge system is under the ocean.
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