|Why are seashells found on Mt. Everest?
Millions of years ago, Mt. Everest was not a mountain at all. It was underneath the ocean! A lot has changed since then. The outer skin of the earth – both land and sea – rides on gigantic “plates”. Over millions of years, these moving plates collide with one another to form spectacular mountains.
How to make a mountain
Here are some of the ways that mountains form:
Two plates can press against each other until the land is lifted and folded over itself.
One plate can push on top of another one. As one plate slides downward into the earth, it begins to melt. The melted rock rushes upward along cracks and weak spots, bursting out as fiery volcanoes. You can see a huge “ring of fire” where volcanoes circle the Pacific Ocean.
Plates can stretch until they crack and slide, forming fault-block mountains.
In the ocean, great underwater mountains are formed when plates spread away from one another, and melted rock pushes up through the gap.
Glaciers carve out spectacular scenery in mountains. Glaciers pluck rock right out of the mountainside and carry it downward in a river of ice. Glaciers form sharp horns, rounded bowls, and U-shaped valleys.
Given enough time, millions of years generally, all mountains crumble. High jagged peaks become low rounded hills. Finally, mountains wear away to become soil on plains, sand on beaches, or sediments in oceans.
What makes mountains crumble? Rain, wind, and ice wear away mountains. Water gets into the cracks in rocks and pushes the cracks wider as it expands with both heat and cold. Water also dissolves some minerals, washing them out of the rocks. Eventually, the rocks crack and split off. Some crash down the mountain as boulders, others move only a tiny bit as clay particles.
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