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Plate Tectonics Theories Analysis

1261 words - 5 pages

Plate Tectonics Theories Analysis

Since the beginning of human kind there has been a cloud of wonder
regarding

the natural processes and patterns of our planet. Scientist interested
in this field through

out the years, have developed many different theories to how our
planet geological

features have come about. The most widely accepted theory in this
field is that of plate

tectonics. For those who do not know much about the theory of plate
tectonics; it states

that there are twenty plates that cover most of the Earth's surface
area. These giant slabs

of rock are what is known as our lithosphere. These plates are said to
slide on top of the

asthenosphere (an inner layer of molten lava).

A theory that can be explained by plate tectonics is a theory called
continental

drift. According to the theory of continental drift, the world was
made up of a single

continent through most of geologic time. That continent eventually
separated and drifted

apart, forming into the seven continents we have today. The first
comprehensive theory

of continental drift was suggested by the German meteorologist Alfred
Wegener in 1912.

The hypothesis asserts that the continents consist of lighter rocks
that rest on heavier

crustal material, similar to the manner in which icebergs float on
water. Wegener

contended that the relative positions of the continents are not
rigidly fixed but are slowly

moving at a rate of about one yard per century. However, one of the
strongest objections

to Wegener's theory was that it did not describe how the plates moved.

According to the generally accepted plate-tectonics theory, scientists
believe that

Earth's surface is broken into a number of shifting slabs or plates,
which average

about forty kilometers in thickness. These plates move relative to one
another above a

hotter, deeper, more stationary zone at average rates as great as a
few inches per year.

Most of the world's active volcanoes are located along or near the
boundaries between

shifting plates and are called plate-boundary volcanoes. The areas of
the Pacific Ocean

Basin, containing the boundaries of several plates, are dotted with
many active volcanoes

that form the so-called Ring of Fire. The Ring provides excellent
examples of plate-

boundary volcanoes, including Mount St. Helens. Important evidence
that supports the

theory of plate tectonics comes from the studies of the magnetic
properties and the ages

of igneous rocks on the ocean floor. Some igneous rocks contain
minerals that are

magnetic. These minerals provide a record of the direction of the
Earth's magnetic field

at the time when the molten lava that formed the rock, cooled. A
discovery that

geologists made was...

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