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13. How Are Mountains Formed?

Mountain formation according to the plate tectonic theory

One of the greatest mysteries that are found on Earth is mountains. Many theories to explain mountain formation have been put forward over the last 100 years or so, but it doesn't seem that these theories are convincing everybody; so new theories for mountain formation are still showing up from time to time.

Mountain formation, according to the tectonic theory is represented sometimes by two arrows opposite to each other and a single mountain block in between, to mean that the arrows or plates pushed the mountain block up. And based on this idea, it is thought that mountains are collections of rocks put together on top of the continental crust, and they are completely isolated from the earth's mantle that is made of basalt rock.

The Earth isn't the only planet that has mountains; all the inner planets have mountains too.

There is no water on the moon; and it does not have a continental crust as the earth does, but it has mountains that are exactly the same as mountains on earth (see the picture below). There on the moon, the mountains are "connected" directly to the basalt layer that is equivalent to the sea floor on Earth. And this shows that mountains are not pushed by the so-called continental crust, because there is no continental crust on the moon. In other words, mountain rocks were dropped from the sky, in trenches, and then pushed up by a rising magma from the mantle.

mountain ranges on the moon
Mountain ranges on the moon are connected directly to the moon's mantle.

mountain ranges on the edges of the ring of fire
Mountain ranges on the edges of the Ring of Fire
The map above shows mountain ranges on the moon, called, Montes Haemus and Montes Caucasus. These mountain ranges are on the "edges" of the lowland that is called Serenitatis; they are similar to the mountain ranges on Earth that are on the "edges" of the Ring of Fire. Their locations on the edges of lowlands on both planets indicates that they have been created in exactly the same manner.

The similar area on Earth is covered in water, but if the water and sand can be removed around these mountains that are on the edges of the ring of fire, we will find them connected directly to the lowland; no land barrier in between -- Basically, there is no major difference between the Earth and the other inner planets except water. And of course, the tectonic plates have nothing to do with the formation of mountains. The water on Earth is the factor that has played the major role that changed the Earth's surface features. And this could not have happened before the addition of rocks that created mountains and lowlands 200 million years ago.

himalaya mountain ranges
 Himalaya Mountains

By looking at the way these mountains are laid, it seems that they were built along cracks in the continental crust, in a very similar manner as the Atlantic Ocean and other seas.

When comparing the lowlands and mountains of Earth with the lowlands and mountains of the other inner planets, we can see that the difference between cracks where mountains were built, and cracks where seas were created, is the timing. The cracks of mountains formed trenches in the continental crust at the same time when the earth was receiving rocks from space, just like mountains on the other inner planets, whereas the cracks in ocean floor were stretched after water filled ocean basins.

At the time when rocks were falling from space, they fell either in trenches or on ocean floor, because of the high magnetic field at these places. The ionization of gases that was caused by gamma rays from the dying second sun created the magnetic field.

QUOTE: "Motion of an ionized gas will produce a magnetic field."

Since the falling rocks contain iron, and also magnetism, they were attracted to the nearest magnetic field.

The base layer of ocean floor is much larger than the base layer of trenches, so it took ocean floor much more time to build thickness and solidify.

Because the base layer of trenches is much smaller, it solidified much faster.

Any rock that fell on ocean floor has broken through or melted, whereas rocks that fell in trenches have stacked up.

The picture of Mars above shows that some of the fallen rocks were stacking up together. The reason for these rocks to come together and then stack up is that they contain magnetism. Each rock was attracted by the one preceding it while they were coming down. On Earth, all rocky mountains have magnetism at various levels. It is very likely magnetism in mountain rocks was much stronger in the past than it is today.

An artist's impression of a protoplanetary disk.

The presence of Earth materials, such as sand and mud, with mountain rocks indicates that they were mixed and heated together with moisture, but not heated to the melting point. This mixture may have been done in different ways. One way is by wind, like the picture of Mars above, but inside trenches. The wind blows on the surface of Earth and causes sand and dust from the top of the surface to fall inside trenches and between rocks. Another way is rain; the rain falls and drives sand and mud into trenches. Or, what looks like earth materials was actually dust came together with the rocks from the so-called "protoplanetary" disk (the debris disk of the second sun). Or, a combination of all of the above mixed together.

Because mountains have their roots connected directly to the mantle, most volcanoes are found mainly in mountainous areas.

Rocks on Pothole dome below is an example of rocks that have fallen from the sky at a late time!

Pothole dome
QUOTE: "We are standing on Pothole dome in Tuolumne meadows... These gigantic boulders are sitting on a bare surface of rock. However, there is no apparent source, or mountain that they could have fallen down from!"

This dome seems to be an uplifted area created by a rising magma. At a later time, when the surface was raised to a very high altitude, far away from the mantle heat, new rocks were attracted by magnetism in this dome, and fallen there. No information is found about magnetism in Pothole dome. But even if there is no magnetism in the dome now, that does not mean it has never been there.

Even though the rocks that are shown in the picture above are few, they show that they are not made underground as a result of a collision between continental plates, forcing the creation of rocks. It is a clear indication of a late arrival (rocks that have fallen from the sky at a late time).

What saved rocks from breaking after falling down is the low gravity of Earth at that time. As mentioned earlier, because of the smaller mass of the earth, and because the earth had no iron core, the earth gravity at that time was much less than today. As a result, rocks fall down in slow motion!

In the section about the Permian-Triassic extinction event, we have read about the huge rock, in the size of Mount Everest, that have fallen from the sky during the time of the extinction. This indicates that the falling rocks have something in common with the actual cause of the Great Dying. And since there were no rocky mountains on Earth before 200 million years, the found rocks in China and Japan add evidence to support that the rocks that make up mountains have actually come from space, at the time of the extinction.

hot spring at 4.5 km above sea level
Hot spring located at 4.5 km above sea level

Most hot springs around the world are found in mountainous areas. The spring shown in the picture to the right is located at a very high altitude, about 4.5 km above sea level.

The heat that makes these springs hot is coming from the mantle. In fact, it looks like the water itself is coming from the mantle too; the very hot water vapor, H2O, that is coming from the mantle, which is the same as the water vapor that is produced by volcanoes, condenses into water liquid after making contact with colder mountain rocks. And this water liquid makes hot springs.

Hot springs that are found in volcanic areas are extremely hot, with temperatures at, or near, the boiling point. The presence of hot springs and volcanoes side-by-side indicates that they are coming from the same source, the earth's mantle.

It is very likely that steam like the one coming from hot springs existed in the past in all areas where mountains are found today. This hot steam, plus dust, sand and mud, formed the strong cement that glued mountain rocks.

The apparent reason for water vapor that makes hot springs to exist until this day is unsealed spaces in mountain structure.

mountain formation

Based on what we have seen so far: the stacking up rocks on Mars, Pothole dome, and others, it is very likely that mountains formed in a way similar to the simplified block diagram above -- The rocks that have fallen first inside a trench were fully melted, forming a near flat surface (A), like Pothole dome. Magma from the mantle raised the melted surface up. The rocks that followed stacked up together (B), but not melted because of the increased distance between the new rocks and the mantle. They formed a mountain hill. The rising magma kept pushing the whole block up (C).

Since the amounts of fallen rocks are not the same all the time, mountain hills are not of the same height.

Not only the height is different, but also the directions of these hills are not the same. Some hills are going, for example, east-west, others north-south, and so on.

While mountains were taking shape inside their trenches, high pressure magma from the earth's mantle kept pushing these mountains up, at various rates.

Some mountains were pushed up very fast, others much slower, and some others may still under ground, but covered with sandstone.

The different rising rates are due to the way the earth is adjusting itself with the new situation. Because of the different rates, some mountains on Earth are still rising, while others are not.

fold mountain

In some places, scratches on the surface of mountain hills are found (like the picture above). They are called fold-mountains. They look as they have been squeezed before they were pushed up. This could happen if their trenches were narrowed after mountain hills have already taken shape and solidified while they were below the surface of Earth.

Narrowing of trenches could happen if parts of the continental crust were pushed by ocean water.

It is written under the picture above that these mountains were raised about 70 million years ago. This shows that they have remained below the surface of the earth for a very long time, since the time of the formation of ocean floor until they were pushed up 70 million years ago.

Mountains on the other inner planets

There are also mountains on the other planets, but they are not called fold-mountains, because there is no sign of scratches on their hills! However, the building process, at least for some mountains on the other inner planets, is the same as on Earth. The apparent reason for no scratches on their hills is the absence of water on the surface of the planets to push the continental crust and narrow mountain trenches.

Despite the absence of water on other planets, the presence of ancient volcanoes proves the presence of gases in the planets' mantles. These gases played the same function for mountain formation as the function performed by water vapor on Earth in cementing rocks together.

 Mars' icy crater, Jupiter's icy moons (Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto), and Saturn's icy rings

In addition to the internal gases, and from the water ice on Mars, the icy moons of Jupiter, and the icy rings of Saturn, we can tell that the other inner planets, including the moon, have received a lot of water vapor, ice blocks, gas and dust from the second sun when it entered its final period of life. All of this participated in the mountain building process, just like the earth.

Water on the moon, QUOTE: "scientists announced that more than 600 million tons of moon water ice is lurking at the bottom of dark craters at the lunar north pole."

Asteroid Vesta, a supposed planet with a mountain!

Asteroid Vesta
Asteroid Vesta
There is a large asteroid in the asteroid belt called, Vesta. It has a diameter of about 525 km. This asteroid has what looks like a mountain. And because of this mountain, it is thought initially that it has a core and mantle; just like the inner planets; based on the idea that suggests that mountain rocks come from underground.

The initial thought, QUOTE: "Large asteroid Vesta once had molten core, magnetic field -- Despite its skewed appearance, Vesta seems to have many features in common with planets.

This asteroid has a very deep impact crater on one side. It has been found out recently that the crater depth is about 60 to 100 km, but did not reach the supposed mantle, QUOTE: "The new study, however, shows that, while it did reach about 60-100 km, it did not penetrate to the mantle, suggesting the mantle begins deeper than previously thought.

If this asteroid is broken apart, they are not going to see any mantle inside! In fact, none of the objects that are orbiting now in the asteroid belt is supposed to have a mantle, because all of them are debris of the second sun.

Regarding the assumed mountain on this asteroid, it looks like it has been made of rocks came together and stacked up because they contain magnetism; just like the stacking up rocks on the surface of Mars but much more. Dust, gas and water vapor from the debris disk of the second sun built around these rocks and made the strong cement that glued them together; and now the rocks look very much the same as mountains on Earth and on the other inner planets.

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