The Himalayas is the mountain range between the Indian subcontinent and the Tibetan plateau. It holds many world records, including the highest peak in the world- Mount Everest. Let’s discuss the formation, the geology, and the future of that fascinating region.
The Formation of the Himalayas
The floating island
Two hundred twenty-five million years ago, the land we know today as India was an island floating in the Tethys Ocean. After Pangea started breaking apart 200 million years ago, it started drifting north. In the next 130 million years, the island drifted 6,400 km until it collided with Eurasia. At first, it moved towards Asia with an average speed of 9 to 16 cm per year. However, later on (40 to 50 million years ago), it slowed down to 4 to 5 cm per year. That marks the beginning of the collision between the Indian and the Eurasian continental plate.
The collision of plate tectonics
As plate tectonics moved towards each other, the Indian plate started to collide with the Eurasian. However, due to their low density, neither of the plates could be subducted. As a result, the Eurasian was crumpled above the Indian plate. The crust between the two plates started to thicken. Today it is twice an average at 75 km! Finally, the volcanic activity stopped due to the solidification of magma before it could reach the surface. The collision pushed up the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau- the world’s highest and largest plateau.
The Himalayas Today
Geology of Himalayas
The process of India pushing on Asia never stopped. Therefore, Himalayas continue to rise more than 1 cm per year. However, erosion and other physical processes lower the range by about the same each year. Another result of the tectonic activity of the region is light earthquakes. The mountain range holds many world records. That includes the highest mountain range in the world, with 30 peaks over 7 km high and over 320 km wide. Six major Asian rivers (The Ganges, the Indus, the Brahmaputra, the Mekong, the Yangtze, and the Yellow Rivers) originate in the Himalayas. Overall the range covers 0.4% of the Earth’s surface, and they’re one of the most amazing natural wonders in the world.
Climate and impact on life
The mountains are a natural sanctuary. The region has various climates, including subtropical, monsoon, and permanently snow-covered mountain tops. Therefore, many species appear only in the Himalayas, creating the region’s unique ecosystems. Snow leopards, wild goats, Tibetan sheep, and musk deer are some of the most distinctive animals. Unfortunately, due to human activity, they are now threatened with extinction.
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For humans, the Himalayas was a place of cult and legends. According to Hindu mythology, God Shiva resides in the Himalayas. Later on, people began to climb the mountains. About 150 people have died trying to climb Mount Everest, making the death rate 9%.
Future of the Mountains
Future geology of the Himalaya
As we established, the Himalayas grows and erodes at the same time. The Indian peninsula isn’t probably slowing down anytime soon, so we can say the situation is quite stable. However, the future looks warm for the Himalayas. Due to climate change, the temperature rises, and natural disasters happen more often. For example, in 2015, 59 nine people died in Nepal because of a huge glacial collapse and unseasonal snowstorm. The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development report concluded that the average temperature on the Tibetan Plateau in Lhasa rose 1.35 degrees Celcius in only 30 years.
The water crisis
A recent study suggests that due to the region’s popularity among tourists, there is a risk of a water crisis. Over 100 million people depend on the water from the mountains now, but the region is quickly urbanizing. “Unfortunately, the unprecedented population growth has led to overexploitation of water sources in the region, pushing the inhabitants to a state of despair,” says the study. In addition, due to climate change, the ice peaks melt, and the water resources may run down in the future.