In a short article in The Guardian of the 6th May entitled ‘Terrawatch’ Kate Ravilious poses the question: would Alaska’s Mount Denali be as tall if it were situated on the Equator? A recent study has shown that the erosion of high mountains in Polar regions ‘lighten the load’ and hence create higher mountains than might be expected.

The study, by Jorg Robl at the University of Salzburg and colleagues, studied 16,000 of the world’s highest mountains comparing height, steepness and thickness of the underlying crust which supports them.

They found that some of “… the steepest mountains are found at the highest latitudes, where the effects of glacial sculpting predominates”. They showed that the underlying crust does not need to be as thick as it would for a non-glacial peak.

I have heard something similar before, that erosion reduces the mass of material and thus the mountain ‘floats’ higher, i.e. gains height – the Principle of Archimedes?

Text and Image:  Jim Hutchinson.