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Global Major Mountain Ranges

Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

Learn about the six main mountain ranges of the world. Which is biggest? Which is longest? How do they form? Answer questions to test your new knowledge.

What is a Mountain Range?

Mountains are some of the most dramatic landscapes in the world; beautiful to behold, challenging to climb, and often barren and unyielding. It's hard to be more at the whims of the elements than when you're at the top of a mountain. And the Earth has plenty of them.

A mountain range is a group of nearby mountains, connected by generally high ground. Mountain ranges are generally made up of a set of mountains that were formed at a similar time in the Earth's history by the same process. The Earth's crust is split into sections called tectonic plates, which float on a sea of hot magma. Mountains form when two of the Earth's tectonic plates collide, one going under the other, and forcing the land on the top plate upwards. It's important to note that this process can take around 100 million years and are still growing today!

One Way That Mountains Can Form
One Way That Mountains Can Form

Today we're going to talk about the six most significant mountain ranges in the world, in terms of either length or height.

Six Major Mountain Ranges

The Himalayas are the grandest and tallest mountains in the world. Found in Asia, and crossing the countries of China (Tibet), India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Pakistan, they're huge in height and extent. The total length of the Himalayas is 1,500 miles, and the tallest mountain is also the tallest in the world: Mount Everest at 29,029 feet! They were formed through the collision of the Indo-Australian Plate and the Eurasian Plate.

Mount Everest
Mount Everest

The Andes mountains might not be the tallest mountain range at a height of 22,841 feet (Mount Aconcagua), but it's certainly the longest, stretching for 4,350 miles across seven South American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. The formation of the Andes is complex, but it was due to interaction between the South American and Caribbean plates.

The Karakoram range is often tied together with the Himalayas since it's in the same part of the world and formed around the same time. So geographically speaking, Karakoram is connected to the Himalayas, even if it goes by another name. It crosses the borders between Pakistan, India, and China, and has the highest concentration of peaks above 26,000 feet in the world. It includes K2, which is the second highest mountain in the world at 28,251 feet. Other mountain ranges that are grouped together with the Himalayas include the Hindu Kush, Pamirs, and Tian Shan, among others.

The Rocky Mountains, often referred to as simply the Rockies, are found in the western United States. They stretch twice as far as the Himalayas at 3,000 miles, but are only half as tall, reaching only 14,440 feet (at Mount Elbert, Colorado).

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