A mountain is a large landform that stretches above the surrounding land in a limited area, usually in the form of a peak. A mountain is generally steeper than a hill. Mountains are formed through tectonic forces or volcanism. These forces can locally raise the surface of the earth by over 10,000 feet (3,000 m). Mountains erode slowly through the action of rivers, weather conditions, and glaciers. A few mountains are isolated summits, but most occur in huge mountain ranges.
High elevations on mountains produce colder climates than at sea level. These colder climates strongly affect the ecosystem of mountains: different elevations have different plants and animals. Because of the less hospitable terrain and climate, mountains tend to be used less for agriculture and more for resource extraction and recreation, such as mountain climbing.
The highest mountain on Earth is Mount Everest in the Himalayas of Asia, whose summit is 8,849.868 m (29,035 ft) above mean sea level. The highest known mountain on any planet in the Solar System is Olympus Mons on Mars at 21,171 m (69,459 ft). Climate on mountains become colder at high elevations, due to the way that the sun heats the surface of the Earth. The sun warms the ground directly, while the greenhouse effect acts as a blanket, reflecting heat back towards the Earth that would otherwise be lost to space. The greenhouse effect thus keeps the air at low elevations warm. As elevation increases, there is less greenhouse effect, so the ambient temperature goes down.
The rate at which the temperature drops with elevation, called the environmental lapse rate, is not constant (it can fluctuate throughout the day or seasonally and also regionally), but a typical lapse rate is 5.5°C per 1,000 m (3.57°F per 1,000 ft). Therefore, moving up 100 meters on a mountain is roughly equivalent to moving 80 kilometers (45 miles or 0.75° of latitude) towards the nearest pole. This relationship is only approximate,...
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