Mountain - Definition

Definition

There is no universally accepted definition of a mountain. Elevation, volume, relief, steepness, spacing and continuity have been used as criteria for defining a mountain. In the Oxford English Dictionary a mountain is defined as "a natural elevation of the earth surface rising more or less abruptly from the surrounding level and attaining an altitude which, relatively to the adjacent elevation, is impressive or notable."

Whether a landform is called a mountain may depend on local usage. The highest point in San Francisco, California, is called Mount Davidson, notwithstanding its height of 300 m (980 ft), which makes it ten feet short of the minimum for a mountain by American designations. Similarly, Mount Scott outside Lawton, Oklahoma is only 251 m (823 ft) from its base to its highest point. Whittow's Dictionary of Physical Geography states "Some authorities regard eminences above 600 m (2,000 ft) as mountains, those below being referred to as hills."

Definitions of "mountain" include:

  • Height over base of at least 2,500 m (8,202 ft);
  • Height over base of 1,500 m (4,921 ft).–2,500 m (8,202 ft). with a slope greater than 2 degrees
  • Height over base of 1,000 m (3,281 ft).–1,500 m (4,921 ft). with a slope greater than 5 degrees
  • Local (radius 7,000 m (22,966 ft). elevation greater than 300 m (984 ft)., or 300 m (984 ft)–1,000 m (3,281 ft). if local (radius 7,000 m (22,966 ft). elevation is greater than 300 m (984 ft).

By these definitions, mountains cover 64% of Asia, 25% of Europe, 22% of South America, 17% of Australia, and 3% of Africa. As a whole, 24% of the Earth's land mass is mountainous and 10% of people live in mountainous regions. Most of the world's rivers are fed from mountain sources, and more than half of humanity depends on mountains for water.

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