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山能有多高?

How Tall Can Mountains Be?

奥林匹斯山,是太阳系最高的山,是火星表面上21000米的高塔
Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain in our Solar System, towers 21,000 meters above the
近两个半珠穆朗玛峰的高度。在地球上,你
surface of Mars — nearly two and a half times the height of Mount Everest. On Earth, you
需要一个太空服,才能生存在那个高度,但是在我们的
would need a spacesuit to survive at that altitude – but could there even be a mountain
星球上会有这么高的山么?
that tall here on our home planet?
根据地球重力强度和石头的密度和强度,理论上
Based on the strength of Earth’s gravity and the density and strength of rock, in principle
你能造一个锥型山,从纽约延伸到芝加哥而且
you could make a single conical mountain that stretched between New York and Chicago and
飙升45公里高! 它是奥林匹斯山的两倍让珠穆朗玛峰变成侏儒
soared over 45km! That’s twice the size of Olympus Mons and definitely dwarfs Everest.
然而,为什么实际上地球没有这样巨大的山,
However, there are a couple of reasons why we can’t actually have that humongous of a
有两个原因
mountain on Earth:
第一个,地球的外壳是由大陆板块构成,实质上漂浮在半固体
For one, Earth’s crust is made up of continental plates that essentially float in the semi-solid
岩石地曼上。如果要是加重地面,它们会沉没
rock of the mantle below. If you add more weight above the surface, they sink lower
到地球的炙热内部,当沉入到足够深,它们会变软并且
into the earth’s hot interior, and when they sink far enough, they soften and basically
熔化。对于我们的锥型山,有高15千米的限制
melt. For our conical mountain, that gives a new height limit of just 15km.
同样,大陆板块之间的强烈碰撞,在接触点上可以造出大山
As well, the powerful collision of two tectonic plates, which creates mountains in the first
岩石的断裂和撞击,让岩石的结构变弱并且暴露在
place, also fractures and cracks the rock, weakening its structure and exposing it to
腐蚀中
erosion.
经过数百万年,冻融循环撬开这些裂缝,山坡上的强风还有
Over millions of years, freeze-thaw cycles pry at these cracks, while winds claw at the
激流和冰川在山腰上雕刻出深谷,这些都弱化了
slopes and streams and glaciers carve deep valleys into the mountainside, all weakening
山的支撑,会让山不在上升
the mountain’s support. This can end badly.
例如,高3764米位于新西兰库克山脉的阿拉基山,它的顶部就在1991年一夜之间塌落
For example, 3,764m tall Aoraki/Mount Cook in New Zealand had its top fall off one night
山的高度减少到3754米。
in 1991, trimming it down to a 3,754m mountain.
综合所有共同限制山脉高度的因素,沉入地曼
Given all the factors that conspire to limit the height of mountains – sinking into the
断裂和腐蚀,我打赌我们能有的最高山,
earth’s mantle, fractures, and erosion – I wouldn’t bet on our tallest mountains getting
比现在已经存在的山要高很多,珠穆朗玛峰现在仍在成长,
too much taller than they already are. Then again, Mount Everest is still growing, 50
50年后,它会比现在高30厘米,或变短
years from now, it could be 30 cm taller than it is today… or it could be a good deal
我们只能等待,而且谁也无法预料,也许会继续长高。那时候,也许我们会
shorter. We’ll just have to wait around to find out. And, who knows? Maybe we’ll be on
登上火星。
Mars by then, anyway.

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