The only folded mountains in Africa are found at the northern and southern reaches of the continent. Folded mountains result from the deformation and uplift of the earth's crust, followed by deep erosion. Over millions of years this process built ranges like the Atlas Mountains, which stretch from Morocco to Algeria and Tunisia.
Geologically, the Atlas Mountains are the southern tangent of the European Alps, geographically separated by the Strait of Gibraltar in the west and the Strait of Sicily in the east. The Atlas are strung across northwest Africa in three parallel arrays, the coastal, central, and Saharan ranges. By trapping moisture, the Atlas Mountains carve out an oasis along a strip of northwest Africa compared with the dry and inhospitable Sahara Desert just to the south.
The Atlas Mountains are relatively complex folded mountains featuring horizontal thrust faults and ancient crystalline cores. The Cape ranges on the other hand are older, simpler structures, analogous in age and erosion to the Appalachian mountains of the eastern United States. The Cape ranges rise in a series of steps from the ocean to the interior, flattening out in plateaus and rising again to the next ripple of mountains.
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