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Plate Tectonics: Earth's Plates and Continental Drift.

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Presentation on theme: "Plate Tectonics: Earth's Plates and Continental Drift."— Presentation transcript:

1 Plate Tectonics: Earth's Plates and Continental Drift

2 Some questions we will answer today: – How is the earth always changing? – What does the interior of the Earth look like? – What forces inside the earth create and change landforms on the surface? – What is the theory of plate tectonics and how does it work? – What happens when the plates crash together, pull apart, and slide against each other?

3 The Earth’s Layers The Earth is made of many different and distinct layers. The deeper layers are composed of heavier materials; they are hotter, denser and under much greater pressure than the outer layers. Natural forces interact with and affect the earth’s crust, creating the landforms, or natural features, found on the surface of the earth.


5 Before we start to look at the forces that contribute to landforms,lets look at the different layers of the earth that play a vital role in the formation of our continents, mountains, volcanoes, etc.

6 Earth's Layers (from outer to inner) crust - the rigid, rocky outer surface of the Earth, The crust is thinner under the oceans. mantle - a rocky layer located under the crust -.Convection (heat) currents carry heat from the hot inner mantle to the cooler outer mantle. Asthenosphere – Upper portion of mantle that is partly melted, continents “float” on this

7 outer core - the molten iron-nickel layer that surrounds the inner core. inner core - the solid iron-nickel center of the Earth that is very hot and under great pressure. Earth's Layers (from outer to inner)



10 Most people know that Earth is moving around the Sun and that it is constantly spinning. But did YOU know that the continents and oceans are moving across the surface of the planet? Why???????? Volcanoes and earthquakes as well as mountain ranges and islands all are results of this movement. Why????????

11 Plate Tectonics

12 Most of these changes in the earth’s surface takes place so slowly that they are not immediately noticeable to the human eye. The idea that the earth’s landmasses have broken apart, rejoined, and moved to other parts of the globe forms part of the – plate tectonic theory.

13 Plate Tectonic Theory Scientists found a crack in the seafloor and the two parts are moving in opposite directions, carrying along the continents and oceans that rest on top of them called tectonic plates. They are moving very slowly, but constantly. (Most plates are moving about as fast as your fingernails are growing -- not very fast!) Currently Earth’s surface layers are divided into nine very large plates and several smaller ones.

14 Earthquakes match up with plate boundaries Note the high # of quakes around the Pacific in the Ring of Fire

15 According to the theory of plate tectonics, the earth’s outer shell is not one solid piece of rock. Instead the earth’s crust is broken into a number of moving plates. The plates vary in size and thickness.

16 The North American Plate stretches from the mid-Atlantic Ocean to the northern top of Japan. The Cocos Plate covers a small area in the Pacific Ocean just west of Central America. These plates are not anchored in place but slide over a hot and bendable layer of the mantle.

17 Why do the plates move? The plates move due to convection currents. The mantle material closest to the core is hotter so it rises and displaces the cooler material above in the asthenosphere which sinks. This slowly drags the plates along with it.


19 So what happens when the tectonic plates move? It depends on what kind of crust it is (oceanic or continental) and whether they are: A. Colliding (Convergent boundary); force is compressional B. Pulling Apart (Divergent boundary); force is tensional C. Sliding past each other (transform plate boundary), force is shearing

20 They’re Pulling Apart! When plates pull away from one another they form a diverging plate boundary, or spreading zone. Thingvellir, the spreading zone in Iceland between the North American (left side) and Eurasian (right side) tectonic plates. January 2003.

21 Ocean Crust meets Continental Crust – Because continental crust is lighter than oceanic crust, continental plates ”float” higher. – So when an oceanic plate meets a continental plate, it slides under the lighter plate and down into the mantle. The slab of oceanic rock melts when the edges get to a depth which is hot enough. This process is called subduction.

22 Molten material produced in a subduction zone can rise to the earth’s surface and cause volcanic building, mountains, and islands.

23 Converging...They Crash! And they’re both Continental Plates When both are continental plates, the plates push against each other, creating mountain ranges.

24 They meet and slide past each other! Sometimes, instead of pulling away from each other or colliding with each other, plates slip or grind past each other along faults. This process is known as faulting. * Earthquakes often happen at the sites of these transform boundaries.

25 You get earthquakes at the boundary where the 2 plates slide past each other

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