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The American Cordillera consists of an essentially continuous sequence of mountain ranges that form the western "backbone" of North America, Central America and South America. From north to south, this sequence of overlapping and parallel ranges begins with the Alaska Range and the Brooks Range in Alaskamarker and run through the Yukonmarker into British Columbiamarker. The main belt of the Rocky Mountains along with the parallel Coast Ranges of mountains and islands continue through British Columbia and Vancouver Islandmarker. In the United Statesmarker, the Cordillera branches to include the Rockies, the Sierra Nevada, and the Cascades and Coast ranges of Washingtonmarker, Oregonmarker, and Californiamarker. In Mexicomarker, the Cordillera continues through the Sierra Madre Occidental and Sierra Madre Oriental, as well as the backbone mountains of the Baja California peninsula.

The ranges of the Cordillera from Mexico northwards are collectively called the Western Cordillera in the United States and Canada, and also named as the Canadian Cordillera or Pacific Cordillera in Canada.

The Cordillera continues on through the mountain ranges of Central America in Guatemalamarker, Hondurasmarker, Nicaraguamarker, Costa Ricamarker, and Panamamarker, and becomes the Andes Mountains of South America. The Andes with their parallel chains and the island chains off the coast of Chilemarker continue through Colombiamarker, Ecuadormarker, Perumarker, Boliviamarker, Argentinamarker, and Chilemarker to the very tip of South America at Tierra del Fuegomarker. In addition, the range can possibly be followed through the arcuate South Georgiamarker Ridge across the Southern Ocean to the mountains of Graham Land on the Antarctic Peninsulamarker.

The Cordillera are the eastern half of the Pacific Ring of Fire, which continues around the Pacific Oceanmarker via Kamchatkamarker and Japanmarker to Indonesiamarker and Polynesia.

Further reading

  • Silberling, N.J. et al. (1992). Lithotectonic terrane map of the North American Cordilleragdehfjeiek [Miscellaneous Investigations Series I-2176]. Reston, Va.: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.


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