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Plate tectonics is a scientific theory describing the large-scale motion of seven large plates and the movements of a larger number of smaller plates of the Earth’s lithosphere. The geoscientific community accepted plate-tectonic theory after seafloor spreading was validated in the early 1960s.
See the fact file below for more information on the Plate Tectonics or alternatively, you can download our 20-page Plate Tectonics worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Developed from the 1950s through the 1970s, plate tectonics is the modern version of continental drift, a theory first proposed by scientist Alfred Wegener in 1912. Wegener didn’t have an explanation for how continents could move around the planet, but researchers do now.
- Plate tectonics is the unifying theory of geology, said Nicholas van der Elst, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York.
- “Plate tectonics unified all these descriptions and said that you should be able to describe all geologic features as though driven by the relative motion of these tectonic plates,” Van der Elst said.
DRIVING FORCES OF PLATE MOTION
- It has generally been accepted that tectonic plates are able to move because of the relative density of oceanic lithosphere and the relative weakness of the asthenosphere.
- Dissipation of heat from the mantle is acknowledged to be the original source of the energy required to drive plate tectonics through convection.
- The current view is that a powerful source of plate motion is generated due to the excess density of the oceanic lithosphere sinking in subduction zones. The greater density of old lithosphere relative to the underlying asthenosphere allows it to sink into the deep mantle at subduction zones, providing most of the driving force for plate movement.
- The sources of plate motion are a matter of intensive research and discussion among scientists. One of the main points is that the kinematic pattern of the movement itself should be separated clearly from the possible geodynamic mechanism that is invoked as the driving force of the observed movement, as some patterns may be explained by more than one mechanism.
- In short, the driving forces advocated at the moment can be divided into three categories based on the relationship to the movement: mantle dynamics related, gravity related, and earth rotation related.
MOVEMENT OF PLATES
- The location where two plates meet is called a plate boundary. Plate boundaries are commonly associated with geological events such as earthquakes and the creation of topographic features such as mountains, volcanoes, and oceanic trenches.
- There are three different types of plate movements:
- Divergent boundaries (constructive) occur where two plates slide apart from each other. Active zones of mid-ocean ridges and continent-to-continent rifting are examples of divergent boundaries.
- Convergent boundaries (destructive) occur where two plates slide toward each other to form either a subduction zone (one plate moving underneath the other) or a continental collision. At zones of ocean-to-continent subduction, the dense oceanic lithosphere plunges beneath the less dense continent; while in ocean-to-ocean subduction, older, cooler, denser crust slips beneath less dense crust.
- Transform boundaries (conservative) occur where two lithospheric plates slide grind past each other along transform faults, where plates are neither created nor destroyed. The relative motion of the two plates is either sinistral or dextral. Transform faults occur across a spreading center.
- Depending on how they are defined, there are usually seven or eight “major” plates: African, Antarctic, Eurasian, North American, South American, Pacific, and Indo-Australian. The latter is sometimes subdivided into the Indian and Australian plates.
- The current motion of the tectonic plates is today determined by remote sensing satellite data sets, calibrated with ground station measurements.
TYPES OF TECTONIC PLATES
- There are two types of tectonic plates: oceanic and continental.
- An oceanic plate is a tectonic plate at the bottom of the oceans. It is thinner than the continental crust and denser, and younger than continental crust. When they collide, the oceanic plate moves underneath the continental plate because of its density. As a result, it melts in the mantle and reforms.
- A continental plate is the thick part of the earth’s crust which forms the large land masses. Continental rock has lower density than oceanic rock. They are mostly made of felsic rocks. Continental plates are rarely destroyed. Their oldest rocks seem to be 4 billion years old. Oceanic plates cover about 71 percent of Earth’s surface.
Plate Tectonics Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Plate Tectonics across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Plate Tectonics worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the Plate tectonics which is a scientific theory describing the large-scale motion of seven large plates and the movements of a larger number of smaller plates of the Earth’s lithosphere. The geoscientific community accepted plate-tectonic theory after seafloor spreading was validated in the early 1960s.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Plate Tectonics Facts
- Plate Tectonic Facts
- Definition Type
- Oceanic Vs Continental
- How It Moves?
- Driving Forces
- Three Boundaries
- Oh! Earthquake
- Fact of Bluff
- Essay Type
- The Newscaster
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Link will appear as Plate Tectonics Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, January 28, 2020
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.