Did Earth The surface of the Earth

Did you ever wonder how mountains are formed? As it turns out, Earth’s crust is made up of over 50 plates (not the kind we eat off of) that push and pull away from each other at about 1 inch per year. That pushing and pulling of those plates is the basis for how mountains are formed.

Mountain Formation

Mountains are both formed and destroyed by nature. The wind, rain, and ice are constantly breaking the mountains down and causing them to become smaller. However, new mountains are also constantly being formed. Although this formation is very gradual, it does happen over time.

Parts of the Earth

The surface of the Earth is just the top layer that we see.

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It includes the grass, soil, rocks, and pebbles that we seen and walk on. Directly under the surface is the Earth’s crust. This is a very rocky layer of the Earth. This layer is made up of over 50 tectonic plates. These plates move to form the mountains.

Under the crust is a very solid rock layer, which is about 60 miles deep. Together, this layer and the crust make up a layer called the lithosphere.

Types of Mountains and How They Are Formed

There is not just one type of mountain – there are several types. Let’s talk about a few of them.

Dome Mountains

This is a dome mountain – note the dome shape.
Folded Mountains

These mountains are formed when two plates push into each other. The pressure of the two plates pushing against one another causes the crust to create lifts and folds over each other. One way to visualize this is to take a dish towel, spread it out on a flat surface and put one hand on each side of the towel. Push your hands towards each other slowly, you will see folds begin to form. That is how these types of mountains are formed.

Fault-Block Mountains

Sometimes the Earth’s pressure causes the plates to pull and stretch. This pulling and stretching causes small cracks within the crust. As the cracks happen, some parts of the crust sink down, while other parts of the crust rise up. This forms what looks like rectangular blocks.

In this diagram of a fault block mountain, the left side has risen up, while the right has sunk down, creating what looks like rectangular blocks.
diagram of Teton fault block mountains

Volcanic Mountains

These mountains are formed when there is a small vent in the lithosphere, in the middle of a plate. This allows the hot magma to be pushed up and then cool.

The ash cools, then it hardens, and a cone-shaped mountain forms. The build up of hardened ash is what causes the mountain to form.These mountains can also be formed when one of the tectonic plates pushes into another, causing one of the plates to sink, and the friction between the two begin to heat up the magma. The magma finds a soft spot between the two plates and rises up through that spot.

Mt. Saint Helens in Washington was created by lava and ash erupting from the top.

It blew up again one day after this picture was taken.

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<h2> Lesson Summary</h2>
<p>While the Earth is made up of many layers, it is the <b>lithosphere</b>, the combination of the <b>crust</b> and the deep rock layer, that impacts how a mountain is formed. The <b>tectonic plates</b> that are on the crust are constantly pushing and pulling, allowing for new mountains to continue to form. Some types of mountains that we can see due to this pushing and pulling of plates include dome mountains, volcanic mountains, fault-block mountains, and folded mountains.</p>
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