Mapping the World’s Highest Mountains, By Continent
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Mapping the World’s Highest Mountains, By Continent
From the snow-capped Himalayas in Asia to the dormant Mauna Kea in Hawai’i, mountains have long been a source of fascination for humans.
They are geological marvels, sacred spaces, and the crowning glory of nature and nations. And while there are mountain ranges found all over the world, a few peaks quite literally stand out from the rest.
In this graphic, Arijit Gupta uses data from various sources including Wikipedia, Peakbagger, and EarthENV to highlight three mountains that crown each of the world’s continents.
With its highest three peaks all surpassing 8,000 meters, Asia has the highest mountains in the world in terms of absolute elevation.
Towering over the Himalayas, the famed Mount Everest on the border of China and Nepal is the highest mountain peak on Earth by elevation. Climbers train for months and, at times, years to scale this challenging peak.
Not far behind Mount Everest is the Karakoram range’s K2 between Pakistan and China. While its peak is a little over 200 meters shorter than that of Everest, more inclement weather locally is said to make it a lot more dangerous to climbers.
The main peak of Kanchenjunga, another Himalayan mountain between India and Nepal, stands tall at 8,586 meters. While this peak is the third-highest in the world, its range comprises four other peaks that are not far behind.
2. South America
South America’s crowning peaks are seen along the Andes Mountain range, starting with the highest mountain peak in the Southern Hemisphere—Aconcagua.
|Ojos del Salado||Andes||6,893m|
Located in Argentina, Aconcagua stands at a staggering height of 6,961 meters above sea level. It is also the highest mountain peak in the Americas.
Ojos del Salado on the Argentina–Chile border is a close second in height. This peak ranks as the highest volcano in the world, with its upper reaches containing lava domes, lava flows, and volcanic craters.
Another Argentinian mountain, Monte Pissis, stands merely 100 meters lower than Ojos del Salado. At an elevation of 6,793 meters, it is still the third-highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere.
3. North America
Unlike the continents above, the highest mountains in North America are spread out across a few different mountain ranges.
|Mount Logan||St. Elias||5,959m|
|Pico De Orizaba||Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt||5,636m|
The U.S.’s Denali in the Alaska Range is the tallest mountain in North America at 6,190 meters. Formerly called Mount McKinley, Denali’s subarctic location and elevation is said to make it the coldest mountain in the world.
Located in Canada’s Yukon Territory, Mount Logan is the second-highest mountain in North America. Thanks to a process known as tectonic uplifting, it is actually still increasing in height by about 0.35 mm each year.
Mexico’s Pico de Orizaba, a dormant volcano, comes in third. Though it is part of the far-away Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt range, all of the continent’s largest mountains are part of the North American Cordillera of connected mountain ranges.
Africa is home to three of the world’s highest peaks, and some of the most diverse mountain-side climates surrounding them.
|Mount Kilimanjaro||Eastern Rift||5,895m|
|Mount Kenya||Eastern Rift||5,199m|
Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa and the highest freestanding mountain globally. Climbing Kilimanjaro is a unique experience, as it takes you through five different ecological zones including rainforests, moorlands, alpine deserts, and glaciers.
Meanwhile, Africa’s second-highest peak in Kenya, its namesake Mount Kenya, actually has three distinct summits. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to various wildlife species, including elephants and hyenas.
Following close is the Rwenzori Range’s Mount Stanley. Located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it is locally believed to be a sacred site where ancestors reside on the mountain’s peaks.
The Caucasus Mountains at the edge of Eastern Europe contains the continent’s highest mountains.
|Mount Elbrus||Caucasus Mountains||5,642m|
|Gora Dykh-Tau||Caucasus Mountains||5,205m|
Mount Elbrus in Russia is number one with an elevation of 5,642 m. The mountain is a dormant volcano with a symmetrical double-cone shape, but since its most recent explosion was around 50 C.E., it is presently covered with snow and glaciers.
Nearby Goa Dykh-Tau is the second-highest mountain in Europe. It has a sharp, pyramid-like peak that rises sharply from its base, and is located just a few kilometers north of the Georgian border.
Just across the border on the southern side is Shkhara, the third-highest peak on the European continent. It is known for a distinctive double summit, with the western summit being slightly higher than the eastern one.
While many of the above continents have high-ranking mountain peaks located in different countries, Oceania’s are all entirely within Indonesia on the island of New Guinea.
Oceania’s highest peak is Puncak Jaya, also known by other local names including Carstensz Pyramid, the mountain of which Puncak Jaya is a distinct summit. It’s the world’s tallest mountain on an island, and reaching its summit is a challenging climb due to its remote location and difficult terrain.
Decades ago, second-place Sumantri was known as Ngga Pulu, and was higher than Puncak Jaya. However, that changed due to glacial melting since the 1850s helped isolate and clarify the local peaks of Carstensz Pyramid. Today, Sumantri stands tall at 4,870 meters as the second-highest on the continent.
To the East in the Jayawijaya range, Puncak Mandala is third on this list. But as a freestanding mountain, it is sometimes considered to be the second-highest peak in Oceania, while Sumantri is disqualified as an offshoot peak of Carstensz Pyramid.
Though they weren’t mapped, Gupta also included data for the mountains in Antarctica, which are unlike any other mountains on Earth.
These mountains are relatively low-lying and often completely covered in ice and snow.
The Vinson Massif contains the highest peak on Antarctica, known as Mount Vinson. Discovered in 1958, the mountain is a challenging climb with lots of icy terrain, and was the last of the Seven Summits to be ascended for the first time in 1966.
Mount Tyree is the second-highest on the continent and only 13 kilometers away from Vinson. It has an elevation just 40 meters shorter, but is also difficult to access.
Comparatively, Mount Shinn—the third-highest peak on the continent—is sometimes also summited by experienced mountaineers that come to Antarctica to climb Mount Vinson.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
Visualizing the Biomass of All the World’s Mammals
When the world’s biomass—the stuff we’re made of—is tallied up, humans and cattle outweigh wild mammals by a massive margin.
Visualizing the Biomass of All the World’s Mammals
Even as we understand more about the world we live in, certain aspects of it remain undefined or hard to comprehend.
One such example is in the scale and distribution of Earth’s life. What’s the ratio of wild to domesticated animals? How much do all of the world’s humans weigh?
Until recently, such questions were nearly unanswerable. A new report titled The Global Biomass of Wild Mammals helps shed more light on the composition and scale of life on our planet. The research provides an estimate of the biomass of all mammals, globally—including humans.
So, What is Biomass Anyway?
Biomass is simply the weight of living things.
In this study, researchers
created rough estimates for four major categories of mammals: humans, domesticated animals, and those that were found in wild terrestrial and marine environments. A further breakdown of mammal groups are found within each category.
To achieve this, they took the estimated number of species from census data and multiplied it with each species’ average body mass.
One component worth pointing out is that animals contribute very different amounts to the world’s biomass total. For example, whales significantly outweigh rodents in terms of biomass, even though there are fewer species and populations of whales. The fact that whales are so much larger than rodents means that even smaller populations can contribute a meaningful portion to overall biomass.
Mammalian Biomass, Organized Neatly
Each larger cube above represents 20 million metric tons of carbon, and the entirety of the visualization represents all living mammalian life on Earth.
The paper separates mammals into four distinct categories:
|Category||Total Mass (Mt)||Top Sub-Category|
|Domesticated Mammals||651||Cattle (416 Mt)|
|Wild Marine Mammals||40||Baleen Whales (23 Mt)|
|Wild Terrestrial Mammals||24||Even-Hoofed Mammals (11 Mt)|
One of the most obvious takeaways from this data is that humans make up one-third of total mammalian biomass.
Perhaps even more strikingly, the animals we’ve domesticated for food, companionship, and labor make up close to 60% of the total weight of Earth’s mammals. Domesticated dogs and cats alone equal the total weight of all other wild land mammals combined.
The world’s sheep, on their own, weigh as much as all the whales and seals in the ocean. Domesticated buffalo such as the water buffalo, a species commonly found in Asia, combine to have the third largest biomass of all mammals.
Finally, there’s one category of mammal that comes way out on top.
The global livestock population has risen along with the human population, and cattle are now the top mammal in the world by weight.
In fact, just the United States’ share of cattle matches the biomass of all wild mammals on Earth.
As the standard of living continues to rise for people around the world, beef consumption has been increasing in many developing countries. Of course, raising cattle is a resource and land intensive operation, and there have been very real impacts on a global scale. For one, cows are a major source of methane emissions. As well, in Brazil, which accounts for around 25% of the world’s cattle population, pasture has directly replaced large swaths of rainforest habitat.
At the very bottom of the visualization, dwarfed by humans and domesticated mammals, lies the vast array of wild mammals that live on planet Earth.
It’s sobering to see that the biomass of North America’s human population alone compares closely with that of all terrestrial wild mammals in the world. This includes plentiful creatures like rats and mice, as well as large mammals like elephants and bears.
Below are the top 10 wild mammalian contributors to biomass in the natural world.
|Rank||Contributor||Total Mass (Mt)||Individuals (millions)|
|#4T||Antarctic Minke Whales||3||0.5|
In the ocean, whales and seals are the heavyweight champions. On land, deer, and boar come out on top as they are both heavy and plentiful.
Humans have a complicated relationship with large mammals. We feel a very clear connection to these creatures, and they are often the key figures in conservation efforts. That said, even small populations of humans have wiped out large mammal species in the past.
The news that cattle outweigh wild land animals by a factor of 20:1 is a reminder that human influence is perhaps even more powerful than we think.
The more we’re exposed to nature’s full splendor […] the more we might be tempted to imagine that nature is an endless and inexhaustible resource. In reality, the weight of all remaining wild land mammals is less than 10% of humanity’s combined weight. – Ron Milo, Professor of Systems Biology
Source: The global biomass of wild mammals
Data notes: To come up with the numbers above, scientists estimated the total biomass of wild mammals on Earth by manually collecting population estimates for 392 land mammal species, which make up about 6% of all wild land mammal species, and using machine learning to infer the global populations of the remaining 94%. Their estimate includes 4,805 wild land mammal species out of approximately 6,400 known and extant wild land mammal species, excluding low-abundance species for which data are scarce.
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