Where are the Alps? - Mountains
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Where are the Alps?

Alps
The Alps

March 2017 - The Alps are a long row of mountains dividing southern Europe from northern Europe, with France and Germany on one side and Italy on the other side. The Alps formed about 34 to 23 million years ago, in the Tertiary era, when the African tectonic plate bumped into the European tectonic plate. As the two plates pushed on each other, they pushed a bunch of rocks up, just like when you push two piles of sand toward each other on the beach. There must have been lots of volcanoes erupting all over the place and huge earthquakes as this happened. But it didn't happen all at once. The plates only move less than nine centimeters a year, so the mountains would have taken millions of years to form.

Today the Alps are older mountains, and there are no longer any active volcanoes in the Alps, but they are still growing between a millimeter and a centimeter each year!

During the Little Ice Age of the Late Middle Ages, glaciers moved down from the tops of the Alps like slow rivers of ice, and many higher villages were covered by the ice, so the people who lived there had to move. More recently, with global warming, those glaciers have melted again, and people are finding long-covered traces of those medieval villages.

Learn by Doing - Graph the height of mountain chains
More about climate change
More about the Himalayas

Bibliography and further reading about the Alps:

More about Europe's environment
More about the Tertiary period
More about Geology
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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