I'm guessing that by mountains, you mean uplifted
areas not formed by volcanism. The term 'mountain'
can actually be used to refer to any uplifted area
regardless of process, but we'll use it here to
talk about elevated areas that are formed in some
way other than volcanism. There are a few ways I
would determine if something was a mountain or a
First, volcanoes tend to have a
conical form and can be isolated on the landscape.
Mountains, however, are formed by regional
stresses that act over the entire landscape, so
they tend to occur in broad chains. Try this:
set a piece of paper on the table and push the
ends together. You don't get a little bump in the
middle of the piece of paper, but instead, the
whole paper folds, right? This is like forming
mountains, the rocks in a large area are folded
and faulted. You can also look at rock types and
structures to tell the difference. Surrounding a
volcano there will be layers of lava that may be
relatively undeformed (meaning that there hasn't
been too much folding and faulting). You should
also find ash and other debris ejected from the
volcano when it erupted. In mountains not built by
volcanism, the rocks will be extensively folded
and faulted, and these folds and faults can be
traced out over long distances. But beware! Many
times, volcanism occurs during mountain building,
so things can get very complicated.
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