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Plate Tectonics Essay

1036 words - 4 pages

Tectonics is the study of the origin and arrangement of the broad structural features of Earth's surface. The theory of most geologists today is that the Earth's outermost layer, the lithosphere or also know as the Earth's surface, is broken into sections, or uneven pieces called plates, also known as tectonic plates. These plates are called African, North American, South American, Eurasian, Australian, Antarctic, and Pacific plates.Earthquakes, the origin of mountain belts, the origin of sea floor topography, the distribution and composition of volcanoes, along with many other features can all be related to plate tectonics or also known as plate interactions at plate boundaries.Plate boundaries are of three general types, this is determined by whether the plates move away from each other, move toward each other or move past each other. These three plates' boundaries are known as divergent plate boundary where the plate boundary is moving apart. The convergent plate boundary is when the plates are moving toward each other. The transform plate boundary is when two plates move horizontally past each other.The basic idea of plate tectonics is that Earth's surface is divided into a few large, thick plates that move slowly and change in size. At these plates there seems to be intense geologic activities occurring where these plates move away from one another, past one another, or towards one another.The idea of plate tectonics was actually born around the late 1960's which was the result of two pre-existing ideas. These ideas were continental drift and sea floor spreading.Continental drift actually was an idea from Alfred Wegener in the early 1900's. Wegener reassembled the continents and formed a giant Supercontinent called Pangea. When he did this he discovered that South America, Africa, Antarctica, Australia, and India all had almost identical rocks and fossils from the Paleozoic period. Wegener also discovered similar plant material and reptile fossils that were in locations that were at one time connected. Pangea separated into two parts, Laurasia the Northern part and Gondwanaland the Southern part.Wegener also determined the positions of the North and South poles from the ancient period are in different positions than the present day poles. He determined this was due to Polar wandering.Another discovery in the early 1960's was by Harry Hess a geologist who proposed that the sea floor might also be moving. He called it sea floor spreading which suggested that the sea floor is moving away from the mid oceanic ridge as a result of mantle convection.Like many features on the Earth's surface, plates change over time. A plate that is composed partly or entirely of oceanic lithosphere can sink under another plate (convergent), usually a lighter, mostly continental plate, and eventually the plate will disappear completely.Here again are the three types of plate boundaries.* Divergent boundaries -- where new crust is generated as the plates pull away...

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