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Origin and Structure of the Earth

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Presentation on theme: "Origin and Structure of the Earth"— Presentation transcript:

1 Origin and Structure of the Earth
Marshak – Chapter 1 (plus an introduction to Chapter 2)

2 The Earth is part of the solar system and thus most likely formed at the same time…
So, what do we know about the solar system and it’s structure? These are the observations which are needed to come up with an idea (hypothesis) for how the solar system (and Earth) formed.

3 Formation of the solar system and differentiation of Earth
Hypotheses must satisfy observations: planets orbit sun in one direction, axes of rotation nearly perpendicular to orbit, most planets rotate in same direction as orbit about sun, >99% solar system mass in sun, ~99% solar system angular momentum in planets Inner Terrestrial - Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars Outer Jovian - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto? Terrestrial – dense, rocky, >3 g cm3, Mg, Fe, Si, K, Ca, metals combined with O Jovian - “gassy” <~1.5 g cm3, ice, H, He, CH4 methane CO2 Asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, source of meteorites

4 Origin of our Solar System: The Nebular Hypothesis




8 The Sun is ~99% of the mass of the solar system
~99% of the angular momentum is in the planets Inner planets are rocky and dense – terrestrial planets Outer planets are gassy – gas giant planets We know the Earth is composed of layers – Why?

9 Planetary Differentiation
Why? There is a motive Layers of different chemical composition can have different density, and gravity provides a driving force whereby planets can lower their potential energy by sorting the denser material towards the center. There is a means Solids are hard to sort mechanically, but liquids are easily separated gravitationally. Partial or complete melting allows large-scale differentiation. There was an opportunity Heating beyond the melting point of most components of undifferentiated solar material during planet formation is inevitable for bodies above a certain size (> approx. 1,000 km radius) that formed early enough or fast enough.

10 Chemical Differentiation of the Earth
Early Earth Earth Today Early Earth likely entirely molten – gravitational segregation of dense metals (mostly Fe) to the center is the result.

11 Origin of the moon by planetary impact on Earth
This occurred ~4.5 billion years ago (4.5 Ga) (very early in Earth history as age is only ~4.6 Ga)

12 Whole Earth has significant Fe - due to the core
However, outer layers of Earth are much different

13 Earth’s crust (thin outer layer) mostly Si and O
Earth’s mantle (between core and crust) is similar to the crust, but with lower Si, and higher Fe and Mg

14 Introduction to Plate Tectonics

15 Plate Tectonics: Structure of Earth’s surface is largely caused by the formation, movement, and destruction of large rigid plates… Major conclusions of Plate Tectonics: The lithosphere (outermost shell of Earth) is composed of 13 or more large rigid plates and numerous smaller ones The plates move with respect to one another and thus continents are mobile (imbedded in plates) Continents are relatively old, ocean basins relatively young Geologic activity (earthquakes, volcanoes) is concentrated along the boundaries between plates

16 January 20, 2011 – Earthquakes in the past 5 years

17 Earthquakes mark outline of Earth’s tectonic plates.

18 Known volcanoes of the world – do the locations look familiar?
from the Smithsonian Global Volcanism Project

19 Note that earthquakes and volcanoes generally occur in the same locations. Where are Earths large mountains found? Are all of these generally found in the same places?

20 These movements are now measured by GPS and VLBA techniques.
Earth’s outermost layer comprises plates which move relative to each other. These movements are now measured by GPS and VLBA techniques.

21 The Theory of Plate Tectonics
Earth’s outer layer broken up into 13 major tectonic plates which are made of the crust and uppermost mantle beneath.

22 Plates may contain oceanic or continental crust or both
contain both continental Others are mainly oceanic crust Some plates and oceanic crust

23 Earth is Composed of Multiple Layers from Core to Crust.
Crust and Upper Mantle (Lithosphere) = Locked Together as Rigid Plate. In terms of overall radius of Earth the plates are only 1-2%.

24 The lithosphere is cold, rigid and solid.
What about the asthenospheric mantle beneath?

25 Oceanic crust (mostly basalt)
Continental crust (mostly granite) Now follows a brief discussion of the main points or postulates of the modern theory of plate tectonics. First point: the rigid lithosphere rides on the ductile asthenosphere. Continental lithosphere is comparatively light and thick, and oceanic lithosphere is comparatively thin and dense, but both ride or “float” on the asthenosphere. Note again that the asthenosphere is ductile but not molten. GRAPHIC: Cross-section of a portion of the outer solid Earth, showing oceanic and continental lithosphere riding on the asthenosphere and deeper mantle layers below (Tasa Graphic Arts). Cold, rigid Lithosphere (mostly olivine) Mantle Asthenosphere Hot, ductile The rigid lithosphere slides on the ductile asthenosphere, which is partially molten.

26 Crust, mantle, and core refer to composition (what is it made of?).
Crust: mostly granite on continents mostly basalt on oceans (we will talk about Mantle: made mostly of the mineral olivine these later…) Core: mostly iron and some nickel Lithosphere and asthenosphere refer to the strength (Is it hot, or is it cold? Is it rigid, or does it flow like toothpaste?) Lithosphere : Strong, rigid, cold outer shell of rock which includes the crust and part of the upper mantle. Asthenosphere: The hotter, weak, ductile layer of solid rock below the lithosphere that flows plastically. Analogy – cold toothpaste.

27 3 Types of Plate Boundaries
• divergent • convergent • transform (strike-slip) transform divergent convergent

28 Divergent plate boundary
• plates move apart • new lithosphere created (oceanic) • volcanism and earthquakes

29 convergent plate boundary
• plates move towards one another • lithosphere destroyed (oceanic) • volcanism, earthquakes, mountain belts

30 Convergent Plate Margins
Ocean-Ocean Ocean-Continent Continent-Continent



33 Lithosphere created at divergent plate boundaries
is destroyed at convergent plate boundaries.

34 Motion at Plate Boundaries
To view this animation, click “View” and then “Slide Show” on the top navigation bar.

35 Hotspot volcanoes are created where a
plume of bouyant, hot mantle rises.

36 Hot Spot Volcano Tracks
To view this animation, click “View” and then “Slide Show” on the top navigation bar.

37 What Forces Drive Plate Tectonics?

38 Early Earth was mostly molten due to: Impact events Gravity Radioactivity

39 Earth’s internal heat is still escaping
today and is most obviously expressed in volcanic eruptions.

40 What role does Earth’s internal heat play in the operation of plate tectonics?
Three modes of heat transfer. Only convection causes motion.

41 How does convection work?
Within Earth’s interior: Cold dense rock sinks in subduction zones. Hot, ductile mantle inside rises and convection occurs. Fig 1.15c

42 Plate tectonics is caused by convection in the mantle.
In detail there are other driving forces, we will discuss these later in the semester…..

43 Plate Tectonics provides a comprehensive explanation for all of
the major features of the Earth that we can observe. Island chain from hot spots deep ocean trenches earthquakes volcanoes Fig 1.10

44 Plate velocities measured with GPS
Confirms plate tectonic motions beyond reasonable doubt!


46 Mantle tomography – provides images similar to ultrasound.

47 Mantle tomography – hot material in red (slower seismic wave velocity), cold material in blue (faster seismic wave velocity). Earthquake locations shown by white dots. Clearly shows the subducting oceanic lithosphere (cold) beneath the Japan volcanic arc system (hot).

48 More detailed image of subduction zone beneath Japan.

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