International Mountain Day (11th December 2020)

By Than Htun (Myanmar Geosciences Society)

Towering, majestic, and beautiful. Mountains are some of the most beautiful of nature’s structures, stolid and regal they stand against the sky, of such a size that they can catch entire countryside’s in their shadow, and turn back the ravages of storms against their unflinching sides.

History of Mountain Day
Mountain Day has been established in December of 2003, the United Nations General Assembly created this day to help bring awareness to all of the things we rely on mountains for. They are necessary for the health and well-being of the flora and fauna that call them their home, Mountain Day promotes them all.

Natural jewels we should treasure
Mountains are home to 15% of the world´s population and host about half of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. They provide freshwater for everyday life to half of humanity. Their conservation is a key factor for sustainable development and is part of Goal 15 of the SDGs.
Unfortunately, mountains are under threat from climate change and overexploitation. As the global climate continues to warm, mountain people — some of the world’s poorest — face even greater struggles to survive. The rising temperatures also mean that mountain glaciers are melting at unprecedented rates, affecting freshwater supplies downstream for millions of people.
This problem affects us all. We must reduce our carbon footprint and take care of these natural treasures (UN, 2020).

2020 Theme: Mountain biodiversity
Mountain biodiversity is the theme of this year’s International Mountain Day, so let’s celebrate their rich biodiversity, as well as address the threats they face.
Mountains loom large in some of the world’s most spectacular landscapes. Their unique topography, compressed climatic zones and isolation have created the conditions for a wide spectrum of life forms.
Biodiversity encompasses the variety of ecosystems, species and genetic resources, and mountains have many endemic varieties. The differentiated topography in terms of altitude, slope and exposure in mountains offers opportunities to grow a variety of high-value crops, horticulture, livestock and forest species.
However, climate change, unsustainable farming practices, commercial mining, logging, and poaching all exact a heavy toll on mountain biodiversity. In addition, land use and land cover change, and natural disasters, accelerate biodiversity loss and contribute to creating a fragile environment for mountain communities. Ecosystem degradation, loss of livelihoods and migration in mountains can lead to the abandonment of cultural practices and ancient traditions that have sustained biodiversity for generations.
Celebrate this International Day 2020 with your community and friends preparing an event or joining the conversation on social media using the hashtag #Mountains Matter. Pass on some of the key messages, or share about the biodiversity in the mountains near you, or a photo of your favorite mountain(UN, 2020).

Major Mountain Ranges of the World
In Commemoration of International Mountain Day, with reference to the wikimedia, worldatlas and various sources, I would like to share some concise account of five major Mountain Ranges of the World as follows:-
The Himalayan Mountain RangeThe Himalaya Range is the highest mountain system in the world. The name “Himalaya” comes from the Sanskrit language and means “the House of Snow,” or “the Snowy Range.” It consists of several parallel ranges.
The mountains extend in a 1,500 mile curve across southern Asia from the Pamirs, west of the great bend of the Indus River, eastward to the great bend of the Brahmaputra River. They form a barrier which separates northern India from the plateau of Tibet. Parts of the range are as much as 200 miles wide.
The Himalayas rise in steps from the plains of northern India, which have an elevation of about 1,000 feet (305 m.) above sea level.
Mount Everest (29,035 feet; 8,849 m.), which lies between Tibet and the kingdom of Nepal, is the highest mountain in the world.
Almost every kind of climate can be found in the Himalayas, because of the great difference in altitude in various parts of the range.
This wide range in climate makes possible a variety of plant life in these mountains. On the steep southern slopes grow tropical plants, such as the fig and palm tree. These plants are found up to a height of 3,000 feet (914 m.). Oak, chestnut, and laurel trees are common up to a height of 7,000 feet (2,133 m.). Deodar and pine trees begin to appear at 12,000 feet (3,657 m.). Shrubs and climbing plants are found in great numbers in the forests, and large rhododendrons grow on the mountain slopes.
This range is home to many animals that live in tropical, temperate, and cold regions. The tiger, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, monkey, and yak are also found here.

The Alps Mountain Range
The Alps are the largest mountain system in Europe. They cover parts of southeastern France and northern Italy, most of Switzerland, part of southern Germany, and some of Austria and Yugoslavia. Most travellers consider the towering Alpine peaks, covered with ice and snow, the most magnificent natural sight in Europe.
This chain of mountains swings in a broad arc from near the Mediterranean Sea in France northward to form the border between France and Italy. They continue eastward through northern Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria. Then they turn southward into Yugoslavia. They form a great barrier which separates northern Italy’s Po Valley from the lowlands of France and Germany and eastern Europe’s Danubian Plain. The Alps are about 680 miles long, and range in width between 80 and 140 miles. They cover about 80,000 square miles, more than the combined areas of the states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Most Alpine peaks range in height between 6,000 and 8,000 feet (1,829 – 2,438 m.) above sea level, but hundreds of peaks tower more than 10,000 feet (3,048 m.). Mont Blanc, in the Pennine Alps, is the highest mountain in all the Alps. It towers 15,782 feet (4,810 m.) higher than the sea. The second and third highest peaks, also in the Pennines, are Monte Rosa (15,203 feet; 4,634 m.) and the Matterhorn (14,692 feet; 4,478 m.).

Atlas Mountains Range
The Atlas Mountains are a range extending 1,500 miles across northwestern Africa. They run from Cape Guir on the Atlantic Ocean to Cape Bon on the Mediterranean Sea. The range crosses part of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. These mountains were named after Atlas, the Greek Titan.
These mountains are made up of several chains that run from southwest to northeast. The southern chains are the Grand or High Atlas, the Atlas and the Anti-Atlas in Morocco, and the Saharan Atlas in Algeria. The highest peaks include Jbel Toubkal at 13,671 feet (4,167 m.) and Djebel Ighil M’Goun which is 13,356 feet (4,071 m.) in Morocco. Plant life of the northern regions resembles that of Mediterranean Europe. Esparto, or alfa grass, grows in the shotts (plateaus). Only scrubby vegetation grows on the southern slopes.

The Andes Mountain Range
The Andes Mountains are the longest mountain chain in the world. They stretch along the entire west coast of South America from Cape Horn to Panama, a distance of 4,500 miles. Only the Himalaya Mountains and their adjacent ranges such as the Hindu Kush are higher than the Andes range. Many Andean peaks rise over 20,000 feet (6,096 m.). It is about 500 miles across the widest part of the range. In Spanish, they are called Cordillera de los Andes, which means Andes Mountain Range.
The southern Andes are less than 10,000 feet (3.048 m.) in elevation near the southern tip of the continent. Farther north, the peaks are higher. Aconcagua (22,841 feet; 6,962 m.), the highest peak in the Americas, and one of the Seven Summits stands in Argentina, but is only about 65 miles from Santiago, Chile.
The Central Andes form the broadest part of the mountain system. Two ranges running northwest and southeast make up this section. Between these ranges lie the high plateaus of Peru and western Bolivia, such as the Altiplano Plateau. The plateaus themselves average about 12,000 feet above sea level (3,657 m.). Farther north, the two ranges come closer together. They finally join into one huge range in Ecuador. The highest peaks of the central Andes are Pissis (22,546 feet; 6,872 m.), Huascaran (22,205 feet; 6,768 m.), Illampu (20,892 feet; 6,368 m.), Sajama (21,463 feet; 6,542 m.), Illimani (21,122 feet; 6,438 m.), Chimborazo (20,565 feet; 6,268 m.) and Cotopaxi (19,347 feet; 5,897 m.).
The Northern Andes have three ranges of mountains, and most are lower than the mountains to the south. One range runs along the coast through Colombia into Panama. The central range lies between the two narrow valleys of the Cauca River and the Magdalena River. This part of the Andes includes the famous volcano of Tolima (17,060 feet; 5,200 m.). The third branch of the northern range runs northeast into Venezuela. Many peaks in the northern Andes reach 15,000 feet (4,572 m.) or more. The highest is Cristobal Colon (18,701 feet; 5,700 m.) in Colombia.
Many of these high mountains are volcanoes. Some of them are active. Glaciers cover the high peaks, even those close to the equator. The largest glaciers, however, are in southern Chile. Many of the glaciers have cut deep valleys into the rocky coastline.

The Rockies Mountain Range
The Rockies are a well-named group of jagged, snow-capped peaks which run through the western part of North America. This chain of mountains extends over 3,000 miles and is almost 1,000 miles wide in some places. They begin in Northern New Mexico and extend as far as northern Alaska. From New Mexico, the mountain range stretches through Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.
At the International Border, the part of the range known as the Canadian Rockies passes through the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia, and the Northwest Territories and Yukon Territory of Canada. The Rocky Mountain range is part of the Cordilleran chain which reaches from Cape Horn to the Arctic Circle. The Sierra Madre Oriental of Mexico and the Andes of South America form the southern part of this chain.
Most of the peaks in this range were formed in a great upheaval of the earth’s crust. The sides of the mountains have been found to contain the fossil skeletons of animals that once lived in the sea, and rocks that were formed in the hot interior of the earth. In the southern half of the range, there are mountains which were once volcanoes. Evident signs of volcanic activity are also found in the huge lava sheets of Idaho and the geysers of Yellowstone National Park. Since the time they were formed, the peaks have been cut into their sharp spires and angled faces by the forces of glaciers. The glaciers hollowed out the valleys between the mountain peaks.
The great mineral riches of the Rocky Mountains include gold, silver, lead and copper, as well as coal, oil shale, and phosphate rock. These mountains are famous for their scenic beauty and natural wonders. Several national parks of the United States are located in this range, including the oldest and largest, Yellowstone National Park, and the Rocky Mountain National Park of Colorado. Such mighty rivers as the Columbia, the Missouri, the Arkansas, the Colorado and the Rio Grande begin here.
The highest and broadest part of the range lies south of the Laramie Plains in Colorado and Utah. This is the Southern Rockies, with 55 peaks in Colorado rising over 14,000 feet (4,267 m.) above sea level; also there are many other peaks in Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming over 13,000 feet (3.962 m.). The highest point in the Rockies is Mount Elbert in Colorado at 14,440 feet (4,401 m.).
The range in Canada includes dozens of peaks more than 11,000 feet (3,353 m.) high, and several reaching to more than 12,000 feet (3,657 m.). Mount Robson, in British Columbia at 12,972 feet (3,954 m.) is the highest point in the Canadian Rockies. Another notable peak in Canada is Mount Assiniboine at 11,870 feet (3,618 m.). In the beautiful national parks of Jasper and Banff in Alberta, you’ll find some of the finest scenic areas in North America.
As the range extends north through Alaska, the peaks gradually become lower until they disappear in a series of ice-covered hills at the Arctic Circle (Mountainprofessor, 2020).

References:
1. United Nations (2020). International Mountain Day 11 December.
2. Mountainprofessor (2020). Mountain Ranges of the World

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