Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory Office of Science NEWTON's Homepage NEWTON's Homepage
NEWTON, Ask A Scientist!
NEWTON Home Page NEWTON Teachers Visit Our Archives Ask A Question How To Ask A Question Question of the Week Our Expert Scientists Volunteer at NEWTON! Frequently Asked Questions Referencing NEWTON About NEWTON About Ask A Scientist Education At Argonne Weight of Mountain
Name: Daniel M.
Status: Student
Age: 20s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: February 9, 2004


Question:
How much does an average (as far as rock density is concerned and no volcanic activity) 10,000 foot tall mountain weigh? Or at least... How can you figure out the weigh of a mountain?



Replies:
Interesting question. Find out what rock types are there and what their densities are (you could even use an average density for granitic crustal material if you need to). I think you could find the volume if you know area, height, and average slope of sides (calculus would probably help you out here). Density is in g/cubic centimeters and you can find volume in cubic centimeters, multiply the two and have your mass in grams, then convert to kilograms. No matter what you do, the estimate will be very rough. I wonder if geophysicists have already published papers relating to this? Good luck!

Pat Rowe


A simple approximate way is to assume the density of rock is about 2.0gm/ml. You can choose another density if you want. Assume the mountain is a cone and use the formula for the volume of a cone to compute the total mass. Mountains are in fact "weighed" experimentally using sensitive gravimeters -- instruments that measure the local gravitational constant. This is done both on the ground and on satellites. From the variation of the local gravitational constant the mass of the mountain can be determined by more sophisticated numerical techniques.

Vince Calder


Typically, rock weighs roughly 2.7 as much as an equivalent volume of water. This would be about 168 pounds per cubic foot or 2700 kilograms per cubic meter. But, what makes this tricky is how you define the bottom of the mountain. The weight of the mountain deforms the surrounding area, so how far down does it go?

To learn more about this process, search for information on the term "isostasy", which is the theory of how the crust deforms under load.

Andy Johnson



Click here to return to the Environmental and Earth Science Archives

NEWTON is an electronic community for Science, Math, and Computer Science K-12 Educators, sponsored and operated by Argonne National Laboratory's Educational Programs, Andrew Skipor, Ph.D., Head of Educational Programs.

For assistance with NEWTON contact a System Operator (help@newton.dep.anl.gov), or at Argonne's Educational Programs

NEWTON AND ASK A SCIENTIST
Educational Programs
Building 360
9700 S. Cass Ave.
Argonne, Illinois
60439-4845, USA
Update: June 2012
Weclome To Newton

Argonne National Laboratory