Q:

Who discovered plate tectonics?

A:

Quick Answer

Researcher Alfred Wegener developed the continental drift theory that led to the modern theory of plate tectonics. Because plate tectonics is still a theory, it is hypothesized and not officially discovered or proven.

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Full Answer

The theory of plate tectonics is that separate and disconnected plates make up the lithosphere, or outer layer of Earth. Geoscientists believe that these plates move, causing the formation and break up of Earth's continents during hundreds of millions of years. There are eight major plates and many minor plates. The volatile friction within plate boundaries leads to increased seismic activity earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. For example, the highly active San Andreas Fault is part of the boundary between the Pacific and North American plates. Although Wegener first theorized drifting plates in 1912, it was not widely believed until the early 1950s.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What would happen if plate tectonics stopped?

    A:

    If plate tectonics stopped, the continents would stay in place rather than moving slowly around the face of the earth. This would also result in a reduction in volcanic activity and earthquakes. Lower volcanic activity causes warmer surface temperatures because particles released by volcanoes have a cooling effect.

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  • Q:

    How do plate tectonics work?

    A:

    Each continent is embedded onto plates, which are made from lithospheres - Earth's outermost layer. Because this layer is stronger than the underlying layer, it is able to move. Several forces encourage it to do this, which means Earth's landmass remains the same, but the location of continents shifts slightly each year.

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  • Q:

    How do plate tectonics affect sedimentation?

    A:

    Tectonic processes create new sediments as plates collide, move sediment as one plate slips past or overrides another, and ultimately transform sediment by accumulation or volcanic activity. Ocean sediments transfigure based on their location after they interact with tectonic plates.

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  • Q:

    What causes plate tectonics?

    A:

    Plate tectonics is primarily caused by Earth's cooling mechanism, which generates convection currents in the planet's mantle that trigger slow but constant tectonic plate movement. This phenomena occurs on the boundaries of adjacent plates, which are classified as divergent, convergent and transform boundaries.

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