So I posed a question (Calamity breaking a supercontinent in days - Would there be any survivors?) about a calamity that would break a Pangea-like supercontinent in a matter of days. I assume that the only way to do this is through a set of divergent plate tectonics.

However, I would like to know if it is possible to create de novo mountain ranges on the edges that separate the newly formed continents. I don't know if this will be possible, since divergent plates don't form mountains... would I need convergent plates to do that? Or is there any realistic way to produce this effect?

Could I maybe use the aforementioned catastrophe to produce the mountain ranges?


2 Answers 2


In brief, yes, this is possible.

Block mountains can form when the plates pull apart and as parts of the landmass is left standing while other parts sink down.

Vulcanic mountains can form along the faultlines that form down the length of the rift. This can also happen closer to the edges of it.

Look at the geography of the Rift Valley in Africa for examples of both of these mountain formations.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you. I will look with more detail into the african Rift Valley. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 19:37
  • $\begingroup$ This, it's not so much that the edges go up like in most mountain ranges as everything else (i.e. the valley floor) goes down more than the mountains. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 12:05

Right, you would get a rift which is a big depression. That's the opposite of a mountain.

In a story, you need a little handwaving to cause vulcanism a little ways inward from the plate margins due to water infiltration, just from "being disturbed".

  • $\begingroup$ you should considder that there will be multiple faults cracking up along the lenght of the rift from the edges of it to the middle. Vulcanic activity can also happen aloing the faults closer to the edge of the rift and you will have the fomation of blocks. You should look closer at actual rift valley formation for examples of this. The effect might be more dramatic if the plates move faster. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 12, 2016 at 19:52

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