Have you ever taken the time to look at the world around you and marvel at its natural beauty? From humongous oceans and dense forests to sweeping plains and rolling hills, nature paints a vivid picture that can take your breath away.
Maybe one of the most incredible sights on Earth, though, is a majestic mountain range. From the Himalayas to the Rocky Mountains, there's just something about those tall, craggy peaks that stirs the soul.
Have you ever WONDERed how mountains got there, though? Did they fall out of the sky and land where they are? Not quite! Read on to learn more about how mountains are formed.
There are several different ways that mountains can form. One thing these methods have in common is that they all take millions of years!
Many mountains were formed as a result of Earth's tectonic plates smashing together. The Earth's crust is made up of multiple tectonic plates that still move today as a result of geologic activity below the surface.
When two tectonic plates converge, their edges can crumple kind of like an aluminum can does when you crush it. The result of these tectonic plates crumpling is huge slabs or rock being pushed up into the air. What are those called? Mountains, of course!
For example, the tectonic plates that lie underneath India and Asia crashed into each other over 25 million years ago. What happened? The Himalayas, including Mount Everest, were formed. And they're still pushing against each other. That means the Himalayas continue to grow even today!
Mountains can also form along natural fault lines. These are places in Earth's crust where tectonic plates grind against each other. Occasionally, two plates will grind together, resulting in one plate lifting up and tilting over. The result? A mountain range, like the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California.
One other way mountains form is as the result of volcanic activity below Earth's surface. Sometimes molten rock called magma gets pushed up toward the surface. When that happens, it cools and forms hard rock. Eventually, the softer rock above it erodes to reveal a dome-shaped mountain below. If the magma actually breaks through to the surface, you get a volcano!
Mountains can also form by way of erosion. In an area with a high plateau, rivers and streams can carve away stone in the form of deep channels. Over millions of years, what is left is a mountain between deep river valleys!