Plate tectonic
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Plate tectonic

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Plate tectonic Plate tectonic Document Transcript

  • Plate tectonics Plate tectonics (from the Late Latin tectonicus, from the Greek: "pertaining to building") is a scientific theory that describes the large-scale motions of Earth's lithosphere. The model builds on the concepts of continental drift, developed during the first few decades of the 20th century. The geoscientific community accepted the theory after the concepts of seafloor spreading were developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The lithosphere is broken up into tectonic plates. On Earth, there are seven or eight major plates (depending on how they are defined) and many minor plates. Where plates meet, their relative motion determines the type of boundary: convergent, divergent, or transform. Earthquakes, volcanic activity, mountain-building, and oceanic trench formation occur along these plate boundaries. The lateral relative movement of the plates typically varies from zero to 100 mm annually.Tectonic plates are composed of oceanic lithosphere and thicker continental lithosphere, each topped by its own kind of crust. Along convergent boundaries, subduction carries plates into the mantle; the material lost is roughly balanced by the formation of new (oceanic) crust along divergent margins by seafloor spreading. In this way, the total surface of the globe remains the same. This prediction of plate tectonics is also referred to as the conveyor belt principle. Earlier theories (that still have some supporters) proposed gradual shrinking (contraction) or gradual expansion of the globe Tectonic plates are able to move because the Earth's lithosphere has a higher strength than the underlying asthenosphere. Lateral density variations in the mantle result in convection. Plate movement is thought to be driven by a combination of the motion of the seafloor away from the spreading ridge (due to variations in topography and density of the crust, which result in differences in gravitational forces) and drag, downward suction, at the subduction zones. Another explanation lies in the different forces generated by the rotation of the globe and the tidal forces of the Sun and the Moon. The relative importance of each of these factors is unclear, and is still subject to debate.The theory of plate tectonics proposes that the lithosphere is divided into eight major plates (North American, South American, Pacific, Nazca, Eurasian, African, Antarctic, and Indian-Australian) and several smaller plates (e.g., Arabian, Scotia, Juan de Fuca) that fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle These plates are mobile, moving in constant, slow motion measured in rates of centimeters per year. The movements of plates over millions of years resulted in the opening and closure of oceans and the formation and disassembly of continents. The theory links Earth’s internal processes to the distribution of continents and oceans;