The Restless Earth - Case Studies


Fold Mountains: The Alps

Location: The Alps is a mountain range in Central Europe

Formation: The Alps were formed in a collision between the African and European plates

Uses of the Alps

  • Farming 
    • The steeep upland areas are used to farm goats
    • Some sunnier slopes have been terraced to plant vineyards
  • Hydro-electric power (HEP)
    • The narrow valleys are dammed to generate HEP
    • The electricity produced is used locally as well as being exported
  • Tourism
    • 100 million tourists visit the Alps each year making tourism a huge part of the economy
    • 70% of tourists visit for sports in the winter as well as for sports in the summer
    • New villages have been built to cater for the quantity of tourists
    • Ski runs, ski lifts, cable cars, holiday chalets and restaurants pepper the landscape
  • Mining and forestry are also human uses of the Alps
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Fold Mountains: The Alps (continued)

People have adapated to the conditions in the Alps

1. STEEP RELIEF: Goats are farmed there because they've adapted to live on steep mountains. Trees and man-made defences are used to protect against avalanches and rock slides.

2. POOR SOILS: Animals are grazed in most high areas were the soil isn't great for crop growth.

3. LIMITED COMMUNITCATIONS: Roads have been built over passes (lower points between mountains). It takes a long time to drive over passes and they can be blocked by snow, so tunnels have been cut through the mountains to provide fast transport links.

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Volcanic Eruption: Montserrat

The Soufrière Hills volcano in Montserrat erupted in 1997

Date: June 25th 1997             Size: Large - 4-5 million m³ of rocks and gas released

Cause: (1) Montserrat is above a destructive plate margin, where the Atlantic plate is being forced under the Caribeen plate. (2) Magma rose up through weak points under the Soufrière hills forming an underground pool of magma. (3) The rock above the pool collapsed, opening a vent and causing the eruption.

Primary impacts Secondary impacts

  • Large areas were covered with volcanic material
  • Over 20 villages and 2/3 of homes on the island were destroyed by pyroclastic flows
  • Schools, hospitals, the airport and the port were destroyed
  • Vegetation and farmland were destroyed
  • 19 people died and 7 were injured
  • Fires destroyed many buildings including local government offices, the police headquarters and the town's central petrol station
  • Tourists stayed away and businesses were destroyed, disrupting the economy
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Volcanic Eruption: Montserrat (continued)

  • Population decline - 8000 of the island's 12 000 inhabitants have left
  • Volcanic ash from the eruption has improved soil fertility
  • Tourism on the island is now increasing as people come to see the volcano

Immediate responses

  • People were evactuated from the south to safe areas in the north
  • Shelters were built to house evacuees and temporary infrastructure was also built
  • The UK provided £17 million of emergency aid
  • Local emergency services provided support units to search for and rescuse survivors

Long-term responses

  • A risk map was created and an exclusion zone is in place. The south of the island is off-limits while the volcano is still active
  • The UK has provided £41 million to develop the north of the island - new docks, an airport and houses
  • The Montserrat Volcano Observatory has been set up to try and predict future eruptions
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Tsunamis: The Indian Ocean

An earthquake caused a tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004

  • There's a destructive plate margin along the west coast of Indonesia
  • On the 26th December 2004 there was an earthquake off the west coast of the island os Sumatra measuring around 9.1 on the Richter scale
  • The plate that's moving down into the mantle cracked and moved very quickly, which caused a lot of water to be displaced. This triggered a tsunami with waves up to 30m high.


  • 230 000 people were killed or are still missing
  • Whole towns and villages were destroyed - over 1.7 million people lost their homes
  • The infrastructure of many countries was severely damaged
  • 5-6 million people needed emergency food, water and medical supplies
  • There was massice economic damage. Millions of fishermen lost their livelihoods, and the tourism industry suffered
  • There was massive environmental damage. Salt from the seawater has meant plants can't grown in many areas. Mangroves, coral reefs, forests and sand dunes were also destroyed
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Tsunamis: The Indian Ocean (continued)

The respone involved a lot of international aid

Short-term responses:

  • Foreign governments, charities, individuals and businesses pledged millions of pounds to give survivors access to food, water, shelter and medical attention
  • Foriegn countries sent ships, planes, soldiers and teams of specialists to help rescue people, distribue food and water and begin clearing up

Long-term responses:

  • Billions of pounds have been pledged to help re-build infrastructure
  • Programmes have been set up to re-build houses and help people get back to work
  • A tsunami warning system has been put in place in the Indian Ocean
  • Disaster management plans have been put in place in some countries. Volunteers have been trained so that local people know what to do if a tsunami happens again
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