The Iberian Peninsula
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The Iberian Peninsula

December 25, 2005

This image acquired on December 10, 2005 depicts the Iberian Peninsula, consisting of Spain, Portugal, Andorra, and Gibraltar. Perhaps the most striking feature in this image is the snow-capped Pyrenees Mountain range in the upper right portion of the image.

The Pyrenees began to form between 100 and 150 million years ago, when the plate that carries present day-Spain slammed (albeit very slowly) into the plate that carries present-day France.

The Pyrenees are much older than the Alps, which were formed when the plates that form the continents of Eurasia and Africa collided during the last 20-30 million years.

One might expect, then, the older mountain range would be far lower and more "worn", having been exposed to the process of erosion for a far greater period, much in the same way as the relatively old Appalachians are far more eroded than the much younger Rockies.

However, the Pyrenees are dominated by harder granites, while the Alps are mostly softer limestone, making the former more durable and resistant to change. Nonetheless, the Pyrenees are lower- on average about 300 meters (1,000 feet) -than the Alps.

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