Q:

What does plate tectonics mean?

A:

Quick Answer

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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What does plate tectonics mean?
Credit: USGS Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-3.0

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Plate tectonics affect human beings in different ways as they cause earthquakes, volcanism and mountain-building. They also induce the recycling of elements within the biosphere, and between the geosphere and biosphere. The theory states that the Earth's outermost layer, the lithosphere, is broken into seven large, rigid pieces known as plates: African, North American, South American, Eurasian, Australian, Antarctic and Pacific. Other minor plates exist which include the Arabian, Nazca, and Philippines.

The plates move in different directions and at different speeds in relation to each other, and sometimes crash together, pull apart or sideswipe each other. The place where two plates meet is known as a plate boundary, and boundaries have different names, which depend on the movement of the plate. When the plates crash, it is called a convergent boundary. When the plates pull a part, it is called a divergent boundary. When the plates sideswipe, it is known as a transform boundary. There are driving forces that contribute to the movement of the earth, such as mantle convection, gravity and the rotation of the earth.

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Related Questions

  • 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:

    How do plate tectonics work?

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    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:

    What is some evidence for the plate tectonics theory?

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    Plate tectonics theory, formerly known as the theory of continental drift, is well supported in geology, geography and biology. It has the power to explain many phenomena, such as volcanoes and earthquakes. The theory provides a working model for analyses of phenomena that scientists observe. This explanatory power is, itself, strong evidence that the theory is correct.

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  • Q:

    What drives the process of plate tectonics?

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    Very slow currents in the relatively plastic lower mantle, or aesthenosphere, are thought to push the crustal plates along and drive the process of plate tectonics. These currents are caused by convection, with the mantle rock being heated from below via radioactive decay and thus becoming less dense than the rock above. These hotter rocks move slowly upward, displacing the rock above and forcing it down in an elliptical motion.

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