Show Details

Himalayan Collision

November 12, 2007

A high-speed continental cataclysm formed the Himalayas 50 million years ago.


A super-speedy continent. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

We may feel like we’re on solid ground, but the continental plates we stand on actually float above the upper mantle of the earth like ice floats on water. Over time, heat and pressure from volcanic activity can cause continents to crash into each other. The Indian plate collided with Asia 50 million years ago, eventually forming the Himalayan mountains. According to seismologist Rainer Kind of the Geo Research Center of Germany, they owe their prodigious height to the speed of the collision.

RAINER KIND (Georesearch Center of Germany):
India was by far the fastest continent and … when it crashed into Asia it was able to form the highest mountains and biggest high plateau on earth.

Using seismological measuring techniques, Kind and his colleagues recently determined that the Indian plate is only half as thick as other continents, causing its rapid movement. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.