Q:

How far do the continents move each year?

A:

Quick Answer

On average, the Americas move about one inch further away from Europe and Africa per year. The landmasses move away from each other due to a phenomenon called continental drift, where the tectonic plates that continents sit on are in constant motion and can drift toward and away from one another.

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Full Answer

The idea of continental drift was first developed by a German scientist named Alfred Wegener in 1912. He noticed that the western coasts of the continents of North and South America looked like they could fit into the eastern coasts of Europe and Africa. He proposed that the two landmasses may have been one massive landmass at one time. Archeological findings in South America and Africa supported Wegener's argument, because similar rocks and fossils can be found in both continents near where the "supercontinent" eventually split.

Today, continental drift and plate tectonics explain many parts of the Earth's surface, and scientists have even been able to measure the continents drifting apart year after year. On average, the landmasses of North and South America, and Europe and Africa move about 1 inch further apart each year. In millions of years, the landmass of North and South America could collide with Australia and Asia.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What is the difference between continental drift and plate tectonics?

    A:

    Plate tectonics is the theory that explains the structure, composition and internal workings of the Earth on a worldwide scale, while continental drift refers to the theory that the continents all used to be connected in one megacontinent which scientists dub Pangaea. Both theories attempt to explain the movement of parts of the Earth's crust.

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  • Q:

    Why do plates move?

    A:

    Plates move because of gravity, which is the main driving force behind plate tectonics. Another reason why plates move is due to convection.

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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:

    Do women from Asia live longer on average than women from Europe?

    A:

    Women from Asia have a shorter life expectancy at birth than women from Europe. According to World Life Expectancy, the average life span of an Asian woman is 69 years, whereas the average life span of a European woman is 79 years.

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