Scandinavian Mountains

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Scandinavian Mountains


a mountain system on the Scandinavian Peninsula, primarily in Sweden and Norway. The system extends some 1,700 km from the northeast to the southwest and is from 200 to 300 km wide in the north and up to 600 km wide in the south. The highest elevation, Galdhøpiggen, rises to 2,469 m. In the north, west, and south, many greatly dissected spurs stretch all the way to the sea, forming steep-sloped capes, peninsulas, and islands. In the east, the mountains are separated from the Norland Plateau by a tectonic scarp that extends in a northeasterly direction.

The Scandinavian Mountains are a highland consisting of separate high plateaus, linearly extended mountain ranges, and intermontane troughs. There are extensive planate surfaces dissected by deep valleys and fjords that have formed along the lines of tectonic faults. The topography of the Scandinavian Mountains was greatly smoothed by ancient glaciers. Erosion by water is the main force shaping the topography today, with snow and ice playing an important role in the upper (nival) zone. The region has the largest glaciers in continental Europe today; they are primarily of the Scandinavian (shield) type. Caledonian folded structures contribute to the makeup of the mountains, as do structures of the uplifted western margin of the Baltic Shield in the south and east. The region has deposits of iron, copper, titanium, and pyrite ores.

The humic oceanic climate and great dissection of the surface combine to produce a very dense river network. The rivers are primarily short but have a high water level; they contain numerous rapids and waterfalls. They are fed by rain, snow, and, to some extent, glaciers. Maximum runoff occurs in the spring and the first half of the summer, with occasional floods in the autumn. Because the current flows so quickly, there are many rivers on which ice does not form in the winter. The mountains have many lakes, mostly of tectonic-glacier origin.

The slopes are covered with taiga forests to elevations of 900 or 1,100 m in the south and 300 or 500 m in the north. Because the western slopes are steeper and more humid, forested regions alternate with large areas of brush vegetation and peat bogs. The forests consist mainly of spruce and pine. Some 150 or 200 m above the mountain taiga belt is a belt of sparse birch forest alternating with mountain tundra and meadows; these meadows are used as summer pastures.