The Himalayas are a spectacular mountain range in the Asian continent ranging from Pakistan in the west to Bhutan in the east. This incredible mountain range consists of various towering mountain peaks, including the tallest of them all, Mt. Everest (8848.86m).
But are the Himalayas growing or shrinking? You might wonder. Various geophysical researchers have concluded that the Himalayas periodically grow and shrink in a cycle. The mountains grow due to the region’s tectonic shifts, whereas they also shrink due to various environmental reasons.
But why does this happen? The answer to this question is understandably quite complex. Many forces come into play for this phenomenon. The Himalayan geology is intricate and quite complex. The Himalayas in the Asian continent formed around 50 million years ago. This was due to the two large landmasses, including India and Eurasia, colliding.
Since these gigantic landmasses had the same rock density, immense pressure was built up because of the collision. Hence, the land masses at the collision point thrust upwards, leading to the Himalayas’ formation. This unique phenomenon is quite significant in today’s world.
The Himalayan peaks were thus formed in the region towering above all the mountain peaks in the world. Therefore, the Himalayas rose significantly, with Mt. Everest alone rising more than 9 km in just 50 million years. The phenomenon has slowed down significantly but has not entirely stopped.
Therefore, there is still impinging on the two landmasses of the Indian and Eurasian plates. The Himalayas rise around 1 cm a year and will increase around 10 km in another million years. While it might seem insignificant at first, over the years, this can amount to quite a large gain in elevation.
The earthquake of April 2015, which had a magnitude of 7.7, caused devastating damage to the country. Around 10,000 people were killed, including the climbers in the Himalayan region. Due to this, many scientists suspected that Everest had shrunk and needed to be re-measured.
Langtang, a mountain in the north-central part, is thought to have shrunken almost a meter after the earthquake. However, in a joint survey conducted by Nepal and China, the height of Mount Everest was found to have increased by 86 centimeters. The mountain peaks in the Himalayas also go through glacial melting and face harsh winds. Therefore, the Himalayas go under 3 millimeters of erosion on average every year. This can amount to a significant level of erosion over time.
Moreover, the scientists also discovered that climate change due to global warming could reduce the elevation of the Himalayas. Therefore, it can be said that the mountain elevation is changing. The tectonic event that formed the Himalayas is still going on at a minimal pace. This leads to the growth of the Himalayas.
Similarly, there are various reasons for shrinkage in the Himalayas, including erosion, global warming, etc. So, there is some balance in the phenomenon of growing and shrinking in the Himalayas. Hence, the Himalayas are growing and shrinking in a cycle.