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Volcanoes and fold mountains

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Right beneath your feet, the earth is in constant motion. We do not feel them as these movements are very slow. The Earth comprises of four layers- the solid crust on the outside, the mantle below it, the outer core and the inner core. As per Plate Tectonics, Earth’s crust is divided into several plates that glide over the mantle. Tectonic plates are pieces of Earth’s solid crust along with the brittle uppermost layer of mantle, which are together referred to as Lithosphere. The intense heat of the core causes molten rock in the mantle to move in a circular pattern due to convection. The mantle dissipates heat as they rise, cool and sink down continuously. This is the source of energy that drives plate tectonics.


These plates move relative to each other and interact along their boundaries, where they converge, diverge or slip past one another. Such interactions are responsible for Earth’s seismic and volcanic activity along with formation of new landforms like mountains and oceanic trench.

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A volcano is formed when hot molten rock (magma), ash and gases escape from an opening in the Earth’s surface. The molten rock and the ashes pile up, cool down and solidify forming a distinctive mountain-like shape. It becomes a landform eventually and may remain dormant or continue to spill lava that flows down slope.

Note – Magma is a term used for molten rock that is underground and lava is used for molten rock that breaks through the Earth’s surface.

Types of volcanoes

The most popular way of classifying volcanoes is based on the frequency of their eruption. Those that erupt regularly are known as active volcanoes. These volcanoes have erupted way back in the past, but haven’t had an eruption for a very long time, are called dormant. They are however capable of erupting in the future. Extinct volcanoes have not erupted in the last 10,000 years and are not expected to erupt again.


Volcanoes form when tectonic plates collide and one plate is pushed beneath the other. Volcanoes are also produced when tectonic plates move away from one another.

1) Convergent boundaries – If two tectonic plates collide, they form a convergent plate boundary. One of the converging plates usually moves beneath the other in a process known as subduction. As the sinking plate moves deeper into the mantle, magma rises up and sometimes may erupt violently to form volcanoes. They often result in arc of islands along the boundary.

  1. Divergent boundaries – When two tectonic plates move away from each other, they leave a gap in between. This gap is filled by magma from the mantle beneath resulting in the formation of new crust on the lithosphere. They may cause a series of volcanoes along the boundary eventually creating rift valleys and mid-oceanic ridges.

Some famous examples of volcanic mountains are Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa and Mount Saint Helens in the state of Washington, among others.

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Fold mountains

Fold Mountains are mountains that form mainly as a result of the folding of layers in the upper part of the Earth’s crust. The formation of Fold Mountains can be compared to a paper that folds on being pushed from each side. They are created when two or more tectonic plates are pushed together at convergent plate boundaries, provided the two plates are of equal density. Along these colliding boundaries, the tectonic plates crash into each other where rocks and debris are warped and folded into rocky outcrops, hills, mountains, and even mountain ranges. Anticlines and synclines are the up and down folds respectively. The rocks at the edges of these plates are weaker and less stable than rocks found in the interior. This makes them more susceptible to folding and warping. This is the reason why they are mostly found on the edges of continental plate boundaries. It takes millions of years to create a fold mountain. They are the most common types of mountains.

Types of fold mountains

The Fold Mountains are classified into young and old fold mountains based on their origins. Young Fold Mountains are 10-25 million years of age and Old Fold Mountains are over 200 million years of age. Young fold mountains generally have pointed peaks, steeper slopes and deeper valleys. Young Fold Mountains include The Rockies in North America, The Andes in South America and the Himalayas in Asia. The old fold mountains are lower than young fold mountains, have rounded peaks and gentle slopes due to erosion. The Appalachians, stretching along North America’s East Coast are old fold mountains.

                                                 The Andes                                                                       

The Appalachians

Check Point

  1. Name the four main layers of the Earth.
  2. Underground molten rock is also known as ________.
  3. The three main substances that erupt during a volcano are ______, ________ and ________.
  4. Young fold mountains have _________ slopes and ________ peaks than old fold mountains.
  5. Volcanoes are mainly found at _________ and _________ plate boundaries.


Answer Key

  1. Inner core, outer core, mantle, crust
  2. Magma
  3. Magma, ashes, gases
  4. Steeper slopes and pointed
  5. Convergent and Divergent

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