Background Information on Plate Tectonics

Filed Under (cruise blog) by Ting on 28-09-2009 and tagged


      Did you know that the Earth is not just one solid piece of dirt? The Earth’s crust is actually made up of many big puzzle pieces that fit together. You can see these puzzle pieces, or tectonic plates as the scientists call them, in the map above.

      Look closely at the map… What are some names of the plates located off the Pacific Coast of the United States of America? The Atlantic Coast? Which plate do you live on?


     The figure above shows that the Earth is made up of many layers: the crust, the Lithosphere (which is the solid part of the mantle) the Asthenosphere (which is the liquid part of the mantle), and the inner and outer core.

     When tectonic plates meet, a few different things can happen:
• The plates can diverge… This means that the plates are moving away from each other as the Earth generates new crust.
• The plates can subduct… One of the plates is “weaker” than the other so the weaker of the two plates subduct or sinks under the “stronger” plate. When the plate subducts, it is recycled into the Asthenosphere where it can be made into new crust later.
• The plates can converge… This means that they are both equally “strong” and can form montain ranges and volcanos.
• The plates can also transform… We know this as a fault line. Pressure builds up around the plates causing them to strike and slip against eachother. What happens when there is significant movement along a fault line? You guessed it! An Earthquake!

     This information is really important for our cruise. We will be studying the history of tectonic plate activity along multiple subduction zones off of the Pacific coast.

     Sounds interesting, right?

     After I return from our first science meeting this morning, I will fill you in on more details about what we hope to accomplish on our research cruise.

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