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What is a Mountain Range? - Definition & Explanation

What is a Mountain Range? - Definition & Explanation
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  • 0:01 Definition of a Mountain Range
  • 1:10 A Matter of Elevation
  • 1:40 Mountain Belts
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Maria Howard

Maria is a teacher and a learning specialist and has master's degrees in literature and education.

Explore mountain ranges from the Himalayas in Asia to the Appalachians in North America. Learn about how mountain ranges are organized into larger groupings called mountain belts. After the lesson, test yourself with a quiz.

Definition

A mountain range is a group or chain of mountains located close together. Since neighboring mountains often share the same geological origins, mountain ranges have similar form, size and age. Think of them like a neighborhood of houses all built around the same time; while they are not identical, they share similar features and are similar in their overall square footage.

The Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina share similar size, shape and age.
Photo of the Blue Ridge Mountains

One well-known mountain range is the Himalayas range in Asia. It was created when pieces of the Earth's crust, called tectonic plates, crashed into each other several million years ago. Many of the tallest mountains in the world (including the world's tallest, Mt. Everest) are part of the Himalayas.

The longest mountain range in the world, the mid-ocean ridge, is one we cannot see; that is because 90 percent of it is covered by the ocean. The mid-ocean ridge extends for 65,000 kilometers (or 40,389 miles), which is quite a distance if you consider that the Appalachian Mountains, spanning from the American South to Canada, is 2,414 kilometers (or 1,500 miles) long.

The mid-ocean ridge is the longest mountain range in the world.
Picture of the mid-ocean ridge

A Matter of Elevation

Mountains are landforms that rise high above the natural formations around them. A mountain's height above sea level is called its elevation, with its highest point called a summit, or peak. Geologists, it turns out, don't readily agree what height makes a mountain a mountain, but an elevation of 300 meters (1,000 feet) is generally high enough to earn the classification. Mt. Everest, located in the country of Nepal, rises 8,850 meters (or 29,035 feet) above sea level, which makes it the world's highest point.

Mountain Belts

Long chains of mountain ranges combine to form mountain belts. Mountain belts extend for several hundred kilometers, often across continents. The Andes Mountains span seven South American countries and are a result of the Pacific tectonic plate colliding with the South American plate.

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