Mountain formation refers to the geological processes that underlie
the formation of mountains. These processes are associated with
large-scale movements of the Earth's crust (tectonic plates).
Folding, faulting, volcanic activity, igneous intrusion and
metamorphism can all be parts of the orogenic process of mountain
building. The formation of mountains is not necessarily related to
the geological structures found on it.
The understanding of specific landscape features in terms of the
underlying tectonic processes is called tectonic geomorphology, and
the study of geologically young or ongoing processes is called
From the late 19th century until its replacement by plate tectonics in
the 1960s geosyncline theory was used to explain much
1 Types of mountains
1.1 Volcanic mountains
1.2 Fold mountains
1.3 Block mountains
1.4 Uplifted passive margins
1.5 Residual mountains
2.1 Hotspot volcanoes
2.2 Fault blocks
3 See also
5 External links
Types of mountains
See also: List of mountain types
There are three main types of mountains: volcanic, fold and
block.[dubious – discuss] A more detailed classification useful
on a local scale predates plate tectonics and adds to these
See also: Stratovolcano, Shield volcano, and Guyot
Annotated view includes Ushkovsky, Tolbachik, Bezymianny, Zimina, and
Udina stratovolcanoes of Kamchatka, Russia. Oblique view taken on
November 12, 2013 from ISS.
Stratovolcanoes associated with a subduction zone (left) and a
spreading ridge volcano (right). A hotspot volcano is center.
Movements of tectonic plates create volcanoes along the plate
boundaries, which erupt and form mountains. A volcanic arc system is a
series of volcanoes that form near a subduction zone where the crust
of a sinking oceanic plate melts.
Most volcanoes occur in a band encircling the Pacific Ocean (the
Pacific Ring of Fire), and in another that extends from the
Mediterranean across Asia to join the Pacific band in the Indonesian
Archipelago. The most important types of volcanic mountain are
composite cones or stratovolcanoes (Vesuvius, Kilimanjaro and Mount
Fuji are examples) and shield volcanoes (such as
Mauna Loa on Hawaii,
a hotspot volcano).
A shield volcano has a gently sloping cone due to the low viscosity of
the emitted material, primarily basalt.
Mauna Loa is the classic
example, with a slope of 4°-6°. (The relation between slope and
viscosity falls under the topic of angle of repose.) The composite
volcano or stratovolcano has a more steeply rising cone
(33°-40°), due to the higher viscosity of the emitted material,
and eruptions are more violent and less frequent than for shield
volcanoes. Besides the examples already mentioned are Mount Shasta,
Mount Hood and Mount Rainier.
See also: Fold (geology), Fold and thrust belt, and Fold mountain
Zard-Kuh, a fold mountain in the central
Zagros range of Iran.
When plates collide or undergo subduction (that is – ride one over
another), the plates tend to buckle and fold, forming mountains. Most
of the major continental mountain ranges are associated with thrusting
and folding or orogenesis. Examples are the Jura and the Zagros
Main article: Fault-block mountain
Fault-block mountain of tilted type.
Sierra Nevada Mountains (formed by delamination) as seen from the
International Space Station.
When a fault block is raised or tilted, block mountains can
result. Higher blocks are called horsts and troughs are called
grabens. A spreading apart of the surface causes tensional forces.
When the tensional forces are strong enough to cause a plate to split
apart, it does so such that a center block drops down relative to its
An example is the Sierra Nevada Range, where delamination created a
block 650 km long and 80 km wide that consists of many
individual portions tipped gently west, with east facing slips rising
abruptly to produce the highest mountain front in the continental
Uplifted passive margins
Unlike orogenic mountains there is no widely accepted geophysical
model that explains elevated passive continental margins such as the
Scandinavian Mountains, Eastern Greenland, the
Brazilian Highlands or
Australia's Great Dividing Range. Different elevated passive
continental margins most likely share the same mechanism of uplift.
This mechanism is possibly related to far-field stresses in Earth’s
lithosphere. According to this view elevated passived margins can be
likened to giant anticlinal lithospheric folds, where folding is
caused by horizontal compression acting on a thin to thick crust
transition zone (as are all passive margins).
Inselberg and bornhardt
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (November
See also: Extensional tectonics,
Rift valley, Rift, Prediction of
volcanic activity, and Geomorphology
Hotspots are supplied by a magma source in the Earth's mantle called a
mantle plume. Although originally attributed to a melting of subducted
oceanic crust, recent evidence belies this connection. The
mechanism for plume formation remains a research topic.
Several movements of the earth's crust that lead to mountains are
associated with faults. These movements actually are amenable to
analysis that can predict, for example, the height of a raised block
and the width of an intervening rift between blocks using the rheology
of the layers and the forces of isostasy. Early bent plate models
predicting fractures and fault movements have evolved into today's
kinematic and flexural models.
3D Fold Evolution
Cycle of erosion
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^ "Geosynclinal Theory". publish.illinois.edu. University of Illinois
at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved March 8, 2018. The major
mountain-building idea that was supported from the 19th century and
into the 20th is the geosynclinal theory.
^ "Chapter 6:
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^ Arthur Holmes;
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^ Chris C. Park (2001). "Figure 6.11". The environment: principles and
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^ John Gerrard (1990-04-12). Reference cited. p. 9.
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^ Løseth and Hendriksen 2005
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NASA Goddard Planetary Geodynamics Laboratory
NASA Goddard Planetary Geodynamics Laboratory: Volcanology Research
Rotating globe showing areas of earthquake activity
Structure of the Earth
Subcontinental lithospheric mantle
Oceanic lithospheric mantle
Conrad (continental crust)
Lehmann (upper mantle)
Juan de Fuca
Philippine Mobile Belt