Where are the Alps? - Mountains

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Where are the Alps?

The Alps

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, 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
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Bibliography and further reading about the Alps:

More about Geology
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Copyright 2012-2015 Karen Carr, Portland State University. This page last updated September 2015.

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