The Info List - Mountain Formation

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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 neotectonics .


* 1 Types of mountains

* 1.1 Volcanic mountains * 1.2 Fold mountains * 1.3 Block mountains * 1.4 Uplifted passive margins

* 2 Models

* 2.1 Hotspot volcanoes * 2.2 Fault blocks

* 3 See also * 4 Notes * 5 External links


See also: List of mountain types

There are three main types of mountains: volcanic, fold, and block. A more detailed classification useful on a local scale predates plate tectonics and adds to these categories.


See also: Stratovolcano
, Shield volcano
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
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 Shasta
, Mount Hood
Mount Hood
and Mount Rainier .


See also: Fold (geology) , Fold and thrust belt
Fold and thrust belt
, and Fold mountain
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 mountains.


Main article: Fault-block mountain
Fault-block mountain
Fault-block mountain
Fault-block mountain
of tilted type. Sierra Nevada Mountains (formed by delamination) as seen from the International Space Station
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 flanking blocks.

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 United States.


Unlike orogenic mountains there is no widely accepted geophysical model that explains elevated passive continental margins such as the Scandinavian Mountains
Scandinavian Mountains
, Eastern Greenland , the Brazilian Highlands or Australia's Great Dividing Range
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).


See also: Extensional tectonics
Extensional tectonics
, Rift valley
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 * Seamount * Batholith
* Continental collision
Continental collision
* Tectonics
* Orogeny


* ^ Steven M. Stanley (2004). " Mountain
building". Earth system history (2nd ed.). Macmillan. p. 207. ISBN 0-7167-3907-0 . * ^ Robert J. Twiss; Eldridge M. Moores (1992). "Plate tectonic models of orogenic core zones". Structural Geology (2nd ed.). Macmillan. p. 493. ISBN 0-7167-2252-6 . * ^ Ollier, Cliff ; Pain, Colin (2000). The Origin of Mountains. Routledge. p. 1. ISBN 0-415-19890-9 . * ^ Kurt Stüwe (2007). "§4.5 Geomorphology". Geodynamics of the lithosphere: an introduction (2nd ed.). Springer. p. 178. ISBN 3-540-71236-4 . * ^ "Chapter 6: Mountain
building". Science matters: earth and beyond; module 4. Pearson South Africa. 2002. p. 75. ISBN 0-7986-6059-7 . * ^ Andrew Goudie (2004). Encyclopedia of geomorphology; Volume 2. Routledge. p. 701. ISBN 0-415-32738-5 . * ^ NASA - Activity at Kliuchevskoi * ^ Victor Schmidt; William Harbert (2003). Planet Earth and the New Geoscience (4th ed.). Kendall Hunt. pp. 46–47. ISBN 0-7872-9355-5 . * ^ Stephen D Butz (2004). "Chapter 8: Plate tectonics". Science of Earth Systems. Thompson/Delmar Learning. p. 136. ISBN 0-7668-3391-7 . * ^ John Gerrard (1990). "Types of volcano". Mountain
environments: an examination of the physical geography of mountains. MIT Press. p. 194. ISBN 0-262-07128-2 . * ^ Robert Wayne Decker; Barbara Decker (2005). "Chapter 8: Hot spots". Volcanoes (4th ed.). Macmillan. p. 113 ff. ISBN 0-7167-8929-9 . * ^ Arthur Holmes ; Donald Duff (2004). Holmes Principles of Physical Geology (4th ed.). Taylor & Francis. p. 209. ISBN 0-7487-4381-2 . * ^ Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Volume 39. American Society of Civil Engineers. 1898. p. 62. * ^ James Shipman; Jerry D. Wilson; Aaron Todd (2007). "Minerals, rocks and volcanoes". An Introduction to Physical Science (12th ed.). Cengage Learning. p. 650. ISBN 0-618-93596-7 . * ^ Michael P Searle (2007). "Diagnostic features and processes in the construction and evolution of Oman-, Zagros-, Himalayan-, Karakoram-, and Tibetan type orogenic belts". In Robert D. Hatcher Jr.; MP Carlson; JH McBride & JR Martinez Catalán. 4-D framework of continental crust. Geological Society of America. p. 41 ff. ISBN 0-8137-1200-9 . * ^ Chris C. Park (2001). "Figure 6.11". The environment: principles and applications (2nd ed.). Routledge. p. 160. ISBN 0-415-21770-9 . * ^ Scott Ryan (2006). "Figure 13-1". CliffsQuickReview Earth Science. Wiley. ISBN 0-471-78937-2 . * ^ John Gerrard (1990-04-12). Reference cited. p. 9. ISBN 0-262-07128-2 . * ^ Lee, C.-T.; Yin, Q; Rudnick, RL; Chesley, JT; Jacobsen, SB (2000). "Osmium Isotopic Evidence for Mesozoic Removal of Lithospheric Mantle Beneath the Sierra Nevada, California" (PDF). Science. 289 (5486): 1912–6. Bibcode :2000Sci...289.1912L. PMID 10988067 . doi :10.1126/science.289.5486.1912 . * ^ Bonow, Johan M. (2009). "atlantens kustberg och högslätter – gamla eller unga?" (PDF). www.geografitorget.se (in Swedish). Geografilärarnas Riksförening. * ^ Green, Paul F.; Lidmar-Bergström, Karna ; Japsen, Peter; Bonow, Johan M.; Chalmers, James A. (2013). "Stratigraphic landscape analysis, thermochronology and the episodic development of elevated, passive continental margins". Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland Bulletin . 30: 18. Retrieved 30 April 2015. * ^ Japsen, Peter; Chalmers, James A.; Green, Paul F.; Bonow, Johan M. (2012). "Elevated, passive continental margins: Not rift shoulders, but expressions of episodic, post-rift burial and exhumation". Global and Planetary Change . 90-91: 73–86. * ^ Løseth and Hendriksen 2005 * ^ Y Niu Peter Stoffers & Jean-Louis Cheminée. Oceanic hotspots: intraplate submarine magmatism and tectonism. Springer. p. 239 ff. ISBN 3-540-40859-2 . * ^ AB Watts (2001). "§7.2 Extensional tectonics
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and rifting". Isostasy
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