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 the Earth be like if it didn't have plate tectonics?

    A:

    Without plate tectonics, there would be no mountains, earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis or continental drift. If the Earth did not move, there may not be any continents at all.

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  • Q:

    What does plate tectonics mean?

    A:

    According to About.com, plate tectonics is the scientific theory that attempts to explain the movement of the Earth's lithosphere, which has formed the landscape features seen across the globe. It provides geology with a comprehensive theory that explains how the Earth works.

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  • Q:

    What drives plate tectonics?

    A:

    The plate tectonics theory suggests that the outer shell of the Earth's surface is split into a few plates that move along the mantle, forming a hard shell, with pressure from mid-ocean ridges and subduction zones causing the shifting in the plates. Mid-ocean ridges are the gaps that lie between the plates, much like the seams on a basketball. Magma oozes through these ridges, creating new crust on the ocean floor and pushing the plates apart, while subduction zones sit at the meeting point between plates. One slides under the other, pulling the crust down as it goes.

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  • Q:

    What is some evidence of plate tectonics?

    A:

    According to the Physics Department of the University of Tennessee Knoxville, evidence for plate tectonics has been found by studying continental shapes and comparing fossils. It notes that modern evidence for plate tectonics is much stronger than when it was first offered as a theory.

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