Introduction

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Cotopaxi stratovolcano, Ecuadorian Andes
Image Credit: MBG
Table Mountain, South Africa
Table Mountain, South Africa
Image Credit: Courtesy by NASA / JPL / NIMA

Mountain building (or mountain formation) is one of the most spectacular but also one of the slowest processes on Earth’s surface. The geodynamic forces acting at plate boundaries and driven by either heat and/or mechanically result in the formation of mountains around the world. Their topography will depend on the material they are composed of and the tectonic, magmatic, metamorphic and climatic conditions, both at the time of their formation and in the millions of years thereafter. These also potentially lead to the concentration of economic minerals.

Stress state

Mountain type

Energy source

Type of plate boundary

compressional

collisionary

mechanical

convergent

loading and compressional

subduction-related volcanism

thermal

convergent

loading

hot-spot volcanism

thermal

unrelated

extensional

oceanic rift zones

thermal

divergent

extensional

continental rift zones

mechanical

divergent

Table relating stress regime of mountain building, mountain types, energy sources and type of plate boundaries. Source: MBG.