# Is there an estimate for the length of the American Cordillera?

There was no geography site on Stack Exchange, so I thought the best place to ask about this was in Earth Science: Do we have an estimate for the length of the American Cordillera (the chain of mountain ranges in the west of the Americas, reaching from Alaska down to Antarctica)?

I tried calculating it by using the lengths of the mountain ranges listed on the Wikipedia page, but some mountain ranges don't have a length recorded anywhere. The best I could get was a rough estimate of about 8500 miles, the length of the Alaska Range, the Coast Mountains in British Columbia, the Cascade Range, the Sierra Nevada, the Sierra Madre Occidental, the Baja California peninsula, and the Andes. The Sierra Madre de Chiapas, COrdillera Central, and Graham Land had no length to add, and maps were no help.

Does a record exist for this lengthy range, or did no one ever bother?

• This topographical unit is huge, from the Arctic trough the Antarctic. I have checked the literature and there is very few standard mention regarding this unit as a whole, instead it is more often localized - possibly function of the tectonic processes at hand. The tectonic units interacting are quite different in the North versus the South - this may play a part why there is not much reference to the cordillera as a super-range. – Etienne Godin Jan 20 '15 at 2:08
• @fre0n I understand what you mean concerning localisation--a geography textbook I have mentions the North American Cordillera, which is what spurred me to research on it and see just how long it was. There was no mention of a North American Cordillera, only of an American, anywhere I could find. But my main problem in estimating the current length is that there's no recorded length of multiple units that make it up. – Jonathan Spirit Jan 27 '15 at 18:54

A difficulty in finding a resource that provides an estimate of the length of the entire American Cordillera is as, @fre0n states in the comments

there is very few standard mention regarding this unit as a whole, instead it is more often localized

As can be read in the Wikipedia article American Cordillera, where they state that

The American Cordillera is a chain of mountain ranges (cordillera) that consists of an almost continuous sequence of mountain ranges that form the western "backbone" of North America, Central America, South America and Antarctica. It is also the backbone of the volcanic arc that forms the eastern half of the Pacific Ring of Fire.

The Wikipedia article lists the constituent mountain ranges as being a line of overlapping mountain ranges from the Alaska and Brooks Range right through the Andes to the southern tip of South America, also suggesting that the Cordillera could

possibly be followed through the arcuate South Georgia Ridge across the Southern Ocean to the mountains of Graham Land on the Antarctic Peninsula.

Given the earlier definition of the Cordillera being

an almost continuous sequence of mountain ranges that form the western "backbone" of North America, Central America, South America and Antarctica.

according to Google Maps, where I used this definition and traced the distance (right-click on map -> Measure distance -> select points along the 'spine' of the Americas and Antarctica), I determined an estimate of the total length as being approximately 17,000 km (or about 21,500 km if the South Georgia Ridge and Graham Land Mountains are included).