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Sea floor spreading provides the driving mechanism for movement
However, it is not the continents that are moving, but the “plates” of lithosphere “floating” in effect on the asthenosphere
The lithosphere is made up of about 20 plates which move relative to each other in several ways
Let’s look at a generalized sketch
Confirmation of the Theory of Plate Tectonics Evidence supporting the theory of plate tectonics: Apparent Polar wandering: plate movement causes the apparent position of the magnetic poles to have shifted. The paleomagnetic fields in the rocks would indicate a single pole until the continents drift apart.
Confirmation of Plate Tectonics Theory Paleomagnetism: strips of alternating magnetic polarity at spreading regions. The patterns of paleomagnetism support plate tectonic theory. The molten rocks at the spreading center take on the polarity of the planet while they are cooling. When Earth’s polarity reverses, the polarity of newly formed rock changes.
This picture shows a place in Newfoundland where a massive collision actually forced mantle rock on top of the crust, during the collision that formed Pangaea and the Appalachian mountains. This looks down the old plate boundary.
Just as a boat sinks or rises with changes in weight, so does the crust sink or rise with changes in weight. Plate tectonics builds mountains and the extra weight causes the crust to sink. As erosion occurs the weight of the mountains decreases and the crust rises again. This process is called isostasy or isostatic change
Isostasy Isostasy is balance. A floating object is balanced in the water, like an iceberg. If some of the top melts, the iceberg rises in the water to stay in balance. If you get into a boat, the boat sinks to maintain balance. The same thing happens with mountains. As plate motions push it higher the mountain sinks into the mantle to stay in balance. On the other hand, when the mountain erodes, it will rise in the mantle as the top erodes. So, a mountain may lose 1 meter from erosion, but regain 0.8 meters from rising due to isostasy. It maintains isostatic equilibrium.
This is also a great example of feedback within a system. Is it positive or negative? Figure it out. Remember that maintaining equilibrium is __ feedback because it keeps the system in balance. So, what is it, positive or negative?
This is a good example of Newton’s 3 rd law. For every force, there is an equal and opposing force. In this case the force of gravity is opposed by the buoyant force.
Right! It’s negative.
Stress Due mostly to plate movements, the earth’s crust is under a lot of stress. There are 3 types, shown at the right A occurs where plates pull apart, divergent boundaries, and is called tension B occurs where plates converge, and is called compression C occurs where plates move past each other, at transform fault boundaries and is called shearing