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How Mountains are Formed

How mountains are formed

Mountain building

  • Exhibition Text

    • The mountain ranges that span the globe mark boundaries where the Earth’s plates converge. Pieces of the crust are piled atop each other, creating complex patterns of folds and faults, as seen in this cast and model from the Alps. Deep within the mountains, the great heat and pressure cause the rocks to be re-crystallized into new combinations of minerals. As the mountains are uplifted, erosion slowly exposes these rocks, some which are shown in this part of the exhibit. Ultimately, the histories of mountain belts are told by their rocks.

      How mountains are formed
      The mountain ranges that span the globe mark boundaries where the Earth’s plates converge. Pieces of the crust are piled atop each other, creating complex patterns of folds and faults, as seen in this cast and model from the Alps. Deep within the mountains, the great heat and pressure cause the rocks to be re-crystallized into new combinations of minerals. As the mountains are uplifted, erosion slowly exposes these rocks, some which are shown in this part of the exhibit. Ultimately, the histories of mountain belts are told by their rocks. 

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  • For Educators

    • Topic: Earth Science

      Subtopic: Mountain Building

      Keywords: Earth (Planet)--Crust, Mountains, Orogeny, Plate tectonics

In This Section

Santis peak Switzerland

Santis Peak, Switzerland

A model of the Santis peak in eastern Switzerland, constructed from the original by Albert Heim (1849-1937), a Zurich geology professor.

Making New Rocks From Old

Making new rocks from old

Metamorphism is the process by which rocks re-crystallize into new combinations of minerals in response to changing temperature, pressure, and exposure to hot, reactive fluids.

How Rocks Deform

How rocks deform

Rocks seem to be rigid and unyielding, but given enough time, they can change shape, and even flow.

Secrets of the Alps

Secrets of the Alps

The inner structure of a mountain belt is revealed in the deeply eroded valleys of the Alps.

The Core of the Alps

The core of the Alps

Like other mountains, the Alps have a deep core of rocks that were once sediments and magmas (molten rocks) solidified in the shallow crust.

Modeling Mountain Building

Modeling mountain building

Physical models can provide insight into how the deep structures - the folds and faults - of mountain belts actually form.

American Museum of Natural History

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