Alfred Wegener Essay

1137 words - 5 pages

BiographyBorn on November 1, 1880, Alfred Lothar Wegener earned a Ph.D in astronomy from the University of Berlin in 1904. He had always been interested in geophysics, and also became fascinated with the developing fields of meteorology and climatology. During his life, Wegener made several key contributions to meteorology. In 1914 he was drafted into the German army, but was released from combat duty after being wounded, and served out the war in the Army weather forecasting service. After the war, Wegener returned to Marburg, but became frustrated with the obstacles to advancement placed in his way; in 1924 he accepted a specially created professorship in meteorology and geophysics at the University of Graz, in Austria. Wegener made what was to be his last expedition to Greenland in 1930. While returning from a rescue expedition that brought food to a party of his colleagues camped in the middle of the Greenland icecap, he died, a day or two after his fiftieth birthday.The Plants and Animals Match/ ClimateWegener noted that plant fossils of late Paleozoic age found on several different continents were quite similar. This suggests that they evolved together on a single large land mass. He was intrigued by the occurrences of plant and animal fossils found on the matching coastlines of South America and Africa, which are now widely separated by the Atlantic Ocean. He reasoned that it was physically impossible for most of these organisms to have travelled or have been transported across the vast ocean. To him, the presence of identical fossil species along the coastal parts of Africa and South America was the most compelling evidence that the two continents were once joined. Wegener also found that the fossils found in a certain place often indicated a climate utterly different from the climate of today: For example, the discovery of fossils of tropical plants (in the form of coal deposits) in Antarctica led to the conclusion that this frozen land previously must have been situated closer to the equator, in a more temperate climate where lush, swampy vegetation could grow. Other mismatches of geology and climate included distinctive fossil ferns (Glossopteris) discovered in now-polar regions, and the occurrence of glacial deposits in present-day arid Africa, such as the Vaal River valley of South Africa.The Rocks MatchBroad belts of rocks in Africa and South America are the same type. These broad belts then match when the ends of the continents are joined. For example the distinctive rock strata of the Karroo system of South Africa were identical to those of the Santa Catarina system in Brazil.He pointed out that the continents are made of a different, less dense rock (granite) than the volcanic basalt that makes up the deep-sea floor in which Wegener proposed that the continents floated somewhat like icebergs in water. Wegener also noted that the continents move up and down to maintain equilibrium in a process called isostasy. As an example he...

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