This continent has a triangular shape, it presents towards the edges of the triangle great elevations that frame, like a giant protective frame, the great plains. The entire extension between them constitutes the depressed areas of this continent. This is why Europe is the part of the earth’s surface with the lowest average height, since it only reaches about 330 m. Geologically it is assumed that all this mountainous structure in Europe is due to three great orogenic movements, mountain-forming movements, which occurred at different times, of which the oldest was the one that gave rise to the formation of the mountain arc that extends towards the northern and western part of the continent: the Scandinavian fold. The second movement originated the folding system that for a great period occupied part of western and central Europe. Then it was reduced to peneplain, later sank and was covered by the seas, which over the centuries deposited successive layers on the old and resistant strata. This folding is known by the name of Hercinio.
The third and last orogenic movement gave rise to the folding that occupies southern Europe along the Mediterranean, and penetrates through its eastern limit into the Asian continent. This mountain range is called the Alpine System, with an orientation from west to east. This great variety of the European relief has given rise to the existence of different natural regions, which we can group according to their most characteristic features, in the following:
Scandinavian or Caledonian folding
Hercinian or Hercynian folding
The Great Plain of Western and Central Europe
The Russian Platform
Europe, the second smallest continent in the world after Oceania, has an area of 10,530,751 km², representing 7% of the landmass. Europe is characterized, both geographically (with a great impact on climate and human geography), the high average number of maritime and oceanic coasts due to the presence of abundant peninsulas, gulfs, inland seas and islands. This and the influx of the Gulf Stream and the proximity of the hot deserts of Africa and Asia determine that in Europe prevails, despite latitudes, a temperate climate exceptionally benign for human habitation. On the other hand, the abundance of coasts and waterways has allowed and allows the transit of populations and then their establishment since the late Pleistocene (when Homo sapiens replaced Homo neandertalensis).
It is also Europe, if it is traditionally considered as a continent, the flattest continent, with an average height of 230 meters. The highest expression of these plains is the Great Northern Plain, which stretches 2,000 km from the French Atlantic coasts to the Ural Mountains, the easternmost physical border with Asia. The highest points are Mount Elbrus (Russia) in Eastern Europe (5,642 m), Shkhara (Georgia) (5,204 m) and Mont Blanc (Italy – France) in Western Europe (4,807 m). To the south, Europe is separated from the African continent by the Mediterranean Sea, a border that is reduced to a few kilometers in the Strait of Gibraltar, to the southeast the limits with Asia are also given by the Mediterranean and its subsidiary seas, the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. Although it is observed, the Mediterranean Sea and its basin more than a limit (according to historical moments) is a nexus of union with the other “continents” (the geographic macro-units of Asia and Africa), resulting in the true cultural and ethnic limits extensive desert regions that are located on the other side of the Mediterranean. Considering Iceland as part of Europe and Greenland As part of America, it can be seen that the distances between Europe and the American continent are also quite small.
Among the gulfs of Europe, the Gulf of Biscay (France and Spain), the Gulf of Cádiz (Spain and Portugal), the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus (Turkey), the Messina (Italy) and the Oresund (Denmark and Sweden) stand out.), among others. Its main peninsulas are the Scandinavian (Sweden, Norway), Iberian (Spain, Portugal, Andorra and Gibraltar), Italica (Italy, San Marino and Holy See), Balkan (Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia Herzegovina, Slovenia, Kosovo and Romania); in addition to the peninsulas of Kola (Russia), Jutland (Denmark), Brittany (France) and Crimea (Ukraine). See European countries.
The European continental shelf, although not very extensive, shelters in its bosom numerous islands, among which we will mention: in the Arctic Ocean the island of Nueva Zembla, whose mountains constitute an extension of the Ural Mountains. On the western coast of Norway there is an archipelago whose main island is Lofoden.
Towards the Atlantic Ocean, south of the Arctic Circle, on the ridge of the Atlantic, south of the Arctic Circle, on the ridge of the North Atlantic, is Iceland, which at its center has an extensive plateau covered by glaciers. On this island there are more than 100 volcanoes, and it also has numerous geysers, which are used to supply houses with hot water and steam, through special pipes. Based on these hot springs, the heating is brought to the city of Reykjavik, capital of the island. To the west is the British archipelago consisting of: Great Britain. Ireland and more than 1000 smaller islands, among which the small archipelagos of the Shetland, the Hebrides and the Orkney stand out. This archipelago was formed due to the depression of the northwestern edge of the European continent caused by the weight of the Quaternary ice.
In the Euro-African Mediterranean Sea there are numerous islands, some a very short distance from the coast, among them we will mention: the small archipelago of the Balearic Islands whose main islands are: Mallorca, Menoreca and Ibiza ; the islands of Corsica (French) and Sardinia (Italian), whose name comes from the Latin sardine, crossed in their center by a mountain range, and the island of Sicily, which some geographers consider as a detachment or fracture of the peninsula. To the north of this is the archipelago of the Lípari, where large volcanoes are located. At the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula there are many islands that make up about 1/5 of the territory of Grecialas Islands Ionian and the archipelagos of the Cyclades and the Aegean, where the island is distinguished Rhodes politically belongs to this continent, although geologically is asian.
The relief of this continent on many occasions is affected by seismic movements, since towards the south the Mediterranean basin constitutes an unstable area of the earth’s crust, since it owes its origin to subsidence of large blocks. Most earthquakes are tectonic in nature. It is an area of great seismicity, and corresponds to one of the volcanic areas of our planet.
The Mediterranean coasts, both north and south, suffer frequent earthquakes, which produce disastrous effects. Among the saddest memories is the one that destroyed the city of Lisbon (Portugal) in the 18th century. To the east of Sicily, the city of Catania has suffered repeated destruction by earthquakes and lava flows, like Messina, located further north, these are today very modern cities and have been built on the rubble of their predecessors.
The best known volcanic region in Europe is the Mediterranean, especially in southern Italy and Sicily, whose region has been fertilized by volcanic lava from ancient eruptions. Vesuvius is located in this region, which in 79 BC made its first eruption, burying the cities of Herculaneum, Estabías and Pompeii. Its eruptions are still frequent, although not violent.
In the Lipari islands, located between Sicily and Italy, is the Stromboli, the Mediterranean Lighthouse, in addition, the Vulcano and the Vulcanelo, which expels gases. One of the largest volcanoes in the world is Etna, 3,274 meters high, which due to its great activity resembles the Vesuvius Volcano, and has numerous craters.
In Iceland we find a region, very close to its capital or, which has been called The Valley of Smokes, due to the number of geysers that exist. They are widely used as geothermal energy, in the irrigation of fields and orchards, in accelerating the maturation of some crops and it is also used to heat greenhouses.