A continental divide is an area of high ground that separates river systems that flow to the opposite sides of the continent. In North America, the continental divide is called ‘the great divide.’
It separates the rivers flowing into the Pacific Ocean from the rivers flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. Similarly, there is an area in other continents too, that separates eastward flowing rivers from westward flowing rivers, and rivers flowing north from rivers flowing to the south.
Since this high area separates a continent into two parts, it is called a ‘divide.’
The Importance of the Continental Divide
What happens when continents collide?
When continents crunch together, the edge of one continent crumples up to form high mountain ranges. The Himalayas were formed in this way, and they are getting higher and higher because India is still crunching up against Asia!
Similarly, Africa has been pushing up into Europe over millions of years. This collision has pushed up the Alps and the Pyrenees mountains!
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The area of maximum movement is around the Pacific Ocean. As the plates supporting the continents buckle and squeeze against each other, earthquakes occur. Holes also appear in the earth’s crust, through which molten rocks are thrown out. These are the volcanoes for which this region is famous.
It is also called continental collision.