Plate Tectonics

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Table of Contents

  1. Plate Tectonics
  2. Overarching Framework
  3. Postulates of the Theory
  4. What Plate Tectonics Explains
  5. Development of the Theory
Plate Tectonics

Plate Tectonics is the theory that rigid plates at the Earth’s surface move relative to each other, converging, diverging, or sliding by.

Overarching Framework
    • “The theory of plate tectonics is now almost universally accepted, and its adoption represents a true scientific revolution, analogous in its consequences to quantum mechanics in physics or the discovery of the genetic code in biology.”
    • “The theory has provided an overarching framework in which to describe
      • the past geography of continents and oceans, 
      • the processes controlling creation and destruction of landforms, 
      • and the evolution of Earth’s crust, atmosphere, biosphere, hydrosphere, and climates.” 
Postulates of the Theory
  • Plate Postulate
    • A mosaic of rigid geologic plates covers the Earth’s surface, forming the Lithosphere.
  • Movement Postulate
    • The plates move horizontally relative to each other on top of a thick layer of molten rock, the Asthenosphere.
  • Boundary Postulate
    • Contiguous plates converge, diverge, or slide past one another.

View Postulates

What Plate Tectonics Explains
  • Continents Fitting Together
  • Deep Sea Trenches
  • Earthquakes
  • Island Arcs
  • Mountains
  • Oceanic Ridges and Seafloor Spreading
  • Transform Faults
  • Volcanoes

View What Plate Tectonics Explains

Development of the Theory
  • 1912
    • German meteorologist and geophysicist Alfred Wegener proposed that the continents were once packed together in the supercontinent Pangea and that over eons of geologic time its constituent parts moved to the current locations of the continents in a process called continental drift.
  • 1960s
    • Geologists Harry H. Hess, Robert S. Dietz,  Frederick J. Vine, Drummond H. Matthews, Laurence W. Morley, J. Tuzo Wilson, Dan McKenzie, R. L. Parker, and others developed the theory of Plate Tectonics
  • Post 1960s
    • GPS measurements have confirmed the predicted velocities and directions of the moving plates