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Earth's Tectonic Plates

The tectonic plates are slabs of lithosphere that are outlined by earthquake epicenters.

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Why Isn't Olympus Mons on Earth?

Why Isn't Olympus Mons on Earth?

Credit: NASA
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Olympus_Mons_alt.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Olympus Mons on Mars is a giant shield volcano. All of the Hawaiian Islands would fit across the diameter of the mountain. Their total mass would by tiny compared with this giant.

Why Doesn’t Earth Have Such a Big Mountain?

Olympus Mons on Mars is not quite the tallest mountain in the solar system; an ever-so-slightly taller mountain is on the asteroid Vesta. Still at 21.9 km (14 miles) high, Olympus Mons is 2^{\frac{1}{2}} times as tall as Mount Everest on Earth. It isn’t just chance that Mars has a much larger mountain than Earth. Three factors limit the size a mountain on Earth can be; they are plate tectonics, the mechanical properties of the upper mantle and erosion. 

Explore More

With the link below, learn more about the factors that limit the height of mountains on Earth. Then answer the following questions.

  1. How do the mechanical properties of the upper mantle (asthenosphere) limit the height of a mountain on Earth?
  2. What happens if the lithosphere sinks too far into the mantle?
  3. How do plate tectonics processes lower the height of mountains on Earth?
  4. Earth has a much thicker atmosphere than Mars. How does Earth’s atmosphere limit mountain height?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: NASA; Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Olympus_Mons_alt.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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