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The Himalaya Range or Himalaya Mountains, usually called the Himalayas or Himalaya, is a mountain range immediately to the north of the Indian subcontinent. By extension, it can also refer to the massive mountain system that additionally includes the Karakoram, the Hindu Kush, and other lesser ranges that extend out from the Pamir Knot.
- Some of the world’s major river systems arise in the Himalayas, and their combined drainage basins are home to some 3 billion people in 18 countries.
- The Himalayas have profoundly shaped the cultures of South Asia; many Himalayan peaks are sacred in Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism.
- Geologically, the Himalayas originate from the northward movement of the Indian tectonic plate at 15 cm per year to impact the Eurasian continent, with first contact about 70 million years ago, and with movement continuing today.
- This caused the formation of the Himalayan arc peaks: the lighter rocks of the seabeds of that time were easily uplifted into mountains.
- An often-cited fact used to illustrate this process is that the summit of Mount Everest is made of marine limestone.
- To comprehend the enormous scale of this mountain range, consider that Aconcagua, in the Andes, at 22,841 ft, is the highest peak outside Asia, whereas the Himalayan system includes over 100 mountains exceeding 23,622 ft.
- The climate ranges from tropical at the base of the mountains to permanent ice and snow at the highest elevations.
- The amount of yearly rainfall increases from west to east along the southern front of the range.
- This diversity of altitude, rainfall and soil conditions combined with the very high snow line supports a variety of distinct plant and animal communities.
- According to the modern theory of plate tectonics, their formation is a result of a continental collision or orogeny along the convergent boundary between the Indo-Australian Plate and the Eurasian Plate.
- The Himalayan range encompasses about 15,000 glaciers, which store about 3000 cubic miles of fresh water.
- The higher regions of the Himalayas are snowbound throughout the year, in spite of their proximity to the tropics, and they form the sources of several large perennial rivers, most of which combine into two large river systems: The western rivers combine into the Indus Basin, of which the Indus River is the largest.
- The Indus begins in Tibet at the confluence of Sengge and Gar rivers and flows southwest through India and then through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea.
- Its two main rivers are the Ganges and the Brahmaputra and the Yamuna, as well as other tributaries.
- The Salween, Mekong, Yangtze and Huang He (Yellow River) all originate from parts of the Tibetan plateau that are geologically distinct from the Himalaya mountains, and are therefore not considered true Himalayan rivers.
- For example, Glacial lakes have been forming rapidly on the surface of the debris-covered glaciers in the Bhutan Himalaya during the last few decades.
- Although the effect of this will not be known for many years, it potentially could mean disaster for the hundreds of millions of people who rely on the glaciers to feed the rivers of northern India during the dry seasons.
- The Himalayas have a profound effect on the climate of the Indian subcontinent and the Tibetan plateau.
- Despite being a barrier to the cold, northerly winter winds, the Brahmaputra valley receives part of the frigid winds, thus lowering the temperature in the North East India and Bangladesh.
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