Nature's Facelift: Sierra Nevada Range Continues to Rise

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Researchers from the University of Nevada, Reno have discovered that the entire Sierra Nevada range is being elevated at one to two millimeters every year.

The team of researchers from the Reno geodetic laboratory teamed with scientists from the University of Glasgow, Scotland, to discover that the mountains are growing about half an inch every 10 years.

The team's findings were published in the journal Geology.

"Our data indicate that uplift is active and could have generated the entire range in less than 3 million years," lead researcher Bill Hammond told the Associated Press. "Which is young compared to estimates based on some other techniques."

The study suggests that the mountain range likely formed less than 3 million years ago, making them comparatively young. The European Alps, by contrast, were thought to begin growing about 65 million years ago.

The Sierra Nevada is unique as it was likely created by an uplift after a fragment of a lower plate peeled off the top layer of the earth, called the "lithosphere."

By contrast, the Alps and the Andes were caused by the collision of two tectonic plates.