The most major mountain ranges in the world have proven themselves to be distinctive. This distinctiveness is made possible only by a recent history of being sculpted and resculpted by ice.

enter image description here Rocky Mountains

enter image description here Andes

enter image description here Alps

enter image description here Himalayas

Now, in this alternate scenario, the history of mountainbuilding remains unaltered, but ice never formed in Antarctica as was the case late in the Eocene back home. No ice, no global cooling. No ice, no glacial erosion. No glacial erosion, no mountain features like these: enter image description here

Without ice, what would the Rockies, the Andes, the Alps and the Himalayas look like today?


closed as too broad by o.m., Aify, Thucydides, Brythan, Gianluca May 3 '16 at 7:56

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    $\begingroup$ Beautiful selection of pictures by the way. $\endgroup$ – Green May 2 '16 at 20:06
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    $\begingroup$ What about the rain? It's also a major source of erosion. $\endgroup$ – Vincent May 2 '16 at 20:23
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    $\begingroup$ The distinctive shapes were carved during the ICE ages, not the RAIN ages. $\endgroup$ – JohnWDailey May 2 '16 at 20:37
  • $\begingroup$ Look at mountain ranges that haven't experienced much, if any, glaciation. In the US Great Basin, just about everything from the Carson Range east through the Toiyabe, Toquima, and Monitor Ranges. You don't get steep/vertical slopes of bare rock, U-shaped valleys, & moraines. Lots of loose soil & broken rock (decomposed granite, if the rock's granite), V-shaped valleys, alluvial fans... Good way to see the difference is to hike parts of the Tahoe Rim Trail. $\endgroup$ – jamesqf May 3 '16 at 5:22
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    $\begingroup$ This could be more narrow if it focused on one mountain range or even the view from one particular location. $\endgroup$ – Brythan May 3 '16 at 7:40

The key difference between glacier erosion and erosion through water/rivers is that glaciers form broad, U shaped valley and rivers form deep, V shaped valleys.

Eithout glaciers, expect steeper valley sides, less large lakes in the mountains (Garda Lake was a Glacier basin). Steeper valleys also imply more rockslides than can form distinctive features in the valleys.

River Valley:
enter image description here

Glacier Valley:
enter image description here
Source - the page also explains the U and V shapes far better than me

Glaciers also form the landscape beneath the mountains:

  • There's sometimes a series of hills, called terminal moraine, where the glaciers pushed their material.
  • Glaciers can transport rocks and deposit them far from the mountains
  • Glaciers can form small plains where the ground is dominated by gravel and sand. This can mean that groundwater is relatively deep underground
  • Loess is formed by (among other things) glaciers. The distribution of loess by wind is aided by the dry conditions in glacial ages (more water stored in ice caps, less precipitation)

The mountains would look similar to what they do now

assuming that it still rains on this planet and there is tectonic activity. Tectonic activity will still push up mountain ranges as we see with the Himalayas and the Andes. Rain will still cause erosion though perhaps this doesn't happen as quickly as with ice.

Without massive glacial erosion, the Rockies might still be high inland steppe. Water erosion would still play a large part in forming the the shape of the mountains but we would still see the familiar valleys and peaks that we see today. Assuming an earth like atmosphere and climate, mountains that grow high enough will eventually collect snow, perhaps not a permanent snowcap but there will be some icing on the mountain top. Where there is water and freezing, there's erosion; even if the accumulated ice doesn't reach the esteemed level of "Glacier".


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