The formation of the gargantuan Himalayas started 220 million years ago. There are various scientific reasons behind the creation of this massive topography. Let us now go through the interesting facts behind the formation of the Himalayas and its future.
General facts about the Himalayas
The Himalayas stretching for some 2,900 kilometers between India, Pakistan, China, and Nepal, is the world’s tallest mountain range. In addition to Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain by peak elevation standing at 8,848 meters tall, the range also features several other mountain peaks over 8,000 meters. It is the only mountain range to boast mountains over 8,000 meters—the runner-up is a mountain range in South America, whose tallest peak is just 6,962 meters tall.
Science explaining the formation of Himalayas
Alfred Wegener, a German meteorologist, coined the “Theory of Continental Drift” which explains the first ideas about Pangea, tectonic plates, and the thought that continents were moving away from or closer to each other. This theory illustrates the origin of the Himalayas. About 225 million years ago, India was a large island situated off the Australian coast, and a vast ocean (called Tethys Sea) separated India from the Asian continent. When Pangaea broke apart about 200 million years ago, India began to move northward. About 80 million years ago, India was located roughly 6,400 km south of the Asian continent, moving northward at a rate of about 9m a century. When India rammed into Asia about 40 to 50 million years ago, its northward advance slowed by about half. The collision along with the decrease in the rate of plate movement is interpreted to mark the beginning of the rapid uplift of the Himalayas.
All of the Tethys Ocean floors were not completely subducted; most of the thick sediments on the Indian margin of the ocean were worn out and accreted onto the Eurasian continent in what is known as an accretionary wedge. These scraped-off sediments from the Himalayan mountain range. The rate of northward drift of the Indian continental plate slowed to around 4-6 cm per year. This slowdown is interpreted to mark the beginning of the collision between the Eurasian and Indian continental plates, the closing of the former Tethys Ocean, and the initiation of Himalayan uplift.
Image Credits: Quora
Future of the Himalayas
Research says that the mountains will continue to grow, though at the same time eroding too; but since the Indian tectonic plate doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down anytime soon, the net is expected to grow. That means more earthquakes and, over time, slightly taller mountains to climb. The Himalayas are still rising by more than 1 cm per year as India continues to move northwards into Asia. However, the forces of weathering and erosion are lowering the Himalayas at about the same rate. The Himalayas and Tibetan plateau trend east-west and extend for 2,900 km, reaching the maximum elevation of 8,848 meters.
Few interesting facts about the Himalayas
- After Antarctica and Arctic, the Himalayan ranges are the home to the third-largest deposit of snow and ice on this planet.
- A total of 12000 cubic kilometers or 3000 cubic miles of fresh water is stored within the 15,000 glaciers that are found within the Himalayan range.
- The largest glacier is the Siachen glacier of the Himalayas. This glacier is 48 miles long.
- The Himalayan range forms an arc that runs over a length of 2,400 kilometers or 1,500 miles from northwest to southeast. On the west, the maximum width of the arc is 400 kilometers or 250 miles. On the eastern side, the width of the arc is 150 kilometers or 93 miles.
- For throughout this length of 2,400 km, the Himalayan mountain system is made up of two almost parallel ranges. A wide valley in between separates these two ranges.
- You can find people of various cultures and religions, including Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism in the Himalayas. The prominent Hindu pilgrimage destinations such as the Amarnath, Kedarnath & Badrinath are nestled in the Himalayas.
- Two Sherpas, Apa Sherpa and Phurba Tashi, hold the joint record for most Everest ascents. The pair has each managed to reach the summit an impressive 21 times!
- The Himalayas serve as a natural habitat for some exotic species of animals like the snow leopard, wild goat, Tibetan sheep, musk deer and mountain goats.
- Explorer Noel Odell first discovered the fossils embedded within Everest’s rocks in 1924, proving that the mountain had once been below sea level. The first rock specimens from Everest were brought back by Swiss climbers in 1956 and by an American climbing team in 1963.
- The Himalayas is the source of many large perennial rivers in the world, which are divided into two river systems – the Indus river system and the Ganges-Brahmaputra river system.
- The Himalayas is the home of several high peaks. However, it holds the record of having the maximum number of highest peaks among any mountain range in the world. Out of 14 heights peaks in this world, Himalayas holds 9.
Also check out our article on Timeline of Indian History here.