How Big Are The Alps?

The Alps consists of several peaks and valleys with different heights and depths.
The Alps consists of several peaks and valleys with different heights and depths.

The Alps are the largest and highest mountain system in Europe. The mountain range stretches for 750 miles from Nice, France to Vienna, Austria. The mountain range cuts across multiple European countries including France, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Germany, Slovenia, and Austria. The Alps is the most extensive mountain range that is located entirely within Europe. The range was formed over millions of years by the collision of the Eurasian and African plates that resulted in the bulging of the sedimentary rocks that formed mountains including the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc.

Height of the Alps

The 740-mile long Alps covers an area of 74,131.6 mi². The Alps is not a uniform mountain range; it consists of several peaks and valleys with different heights and depths.  There are more than 100 peaks higher than 13,000 ft in the Alpine region of the mountain range. Ice and glaciers cover two percent of the mountain range. The 11.3-mile long Aletsch Glacier is the longest glacier valley in the mountain range.

Mont Blanc on the French–Italian border is the tallest peak with an altitude of 15,776 ft. Monte Rosa, on the border between Italy and Switzerland, is the second tallest peak with an altitude of 14,750 feet. The two peaks remain covered by ice throughout the year.

The Altitude Controversy

The peak of Mont Blanc is a perennial ice-and-snow dome whose thickness varies depending on the season. The thickness of the ice affects the elevation of the mountain, and therefore no measurement can be defined as the accurate height of the mountain.

In the late 1990s and early 2000, the official attitude was presented as 15,771 ft. A team of expert survey defined the actual height of the mountain in 2002 as 15,772 ft 4 inches.

In 2003, Europe experienced a heatwave that prompted researchers to re-measure the height of the mountain. The team consisted of a glaciologist, mountain guides, IGN representatives, seven expert surveyors, and four French students. The group noted the elevation as 15,775.8 ft. The peak had also shifted 30 inches away from the initially recorded location.

Due to the discrepancy, the height of the mountain is measured every two years. In 2005, another team measured the height and determined it to be 15,776 ft 9 inches. In 2017, the official height of the mountain was registered as 15,776ft 7 inches.

Research has revealed that the mountain range is growing and shrinking at the same rate. Melting of glaciers and erosion by rivers are shrinking the mountain, but the earth's crust below is regenerating at an equal level.


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