Chapter 2 plate tectonics
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Chapter 2: Plate Tectonics. Tectonic Plates of Earth. Pangaea. Pangaea: Pan = all Gaea = Earth Panthalassa Thalassa = sea AKA Tethys Sea. Continental Drift. Progressive breakup of Pangaea into modern continents Similar to sea ice. Wegner’s Evidence.

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Chapter 2: Plate Tectonics

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Chapter 2 plate tectonics

Chapter 2: Plate Tectonics

Tectonic plates of earth

Tectonic Plates of Earth



  • Pangaea:

    • Pan = all

    • Gaea = Earth

  • Panthalassa

    • Thalassa = sea

    • AKA Tethys Sea

Continental drift

Continental Drift

  • Progressive breakup of Pangaea into modern continents

  • Similar to sea ice

Wegner s evidence

Wegner’s Evidence

  • Present-day shorelines fit like puzzle pieces

  • Better fit from continental shelves

Fossil evidence

Fossil Evidence

  • Identical fossils present in S. Amer. & Africa

  • e.g. Mesosaurus

  • e.g. Glossopteris

  • e.g. Marsupials

Geologic evidence

Geologic Evidence

  • Identical rocks on different continents

    • e.g. 2.2Ga igneous rocks in Brazil & Africa

  • Similar Mountain Ranges

    • e.g. Appalachian Mts ~ Caledonian Mts

Mesozoic supergroup

Identical package of rocks & fossils found in S.Amer., Africa, Australia & Antarctica

Mesozoic Supergroup

Paleoclimatic evidence

Paleoclimatic Evidence

  • Paleo = ancient

  • Climate = weather conditions

  • Glacially transported sediments

  • Glacial striations

Rejection of continental drift hypothesis

Rejection of Continental Drift Hypothesis

  • No evidence of continents “breaking through” oceanic crust

  • Tidal forces necessary would halt Earth’s rotation

  • Danish scientists found no astronomical evidence of drift from 1927-1948

Earth s magnetic field

Earth’s Magnetic Field

  • Similar to bar magnet

  • Magnetic materials align themselves to magnetic field

N s orientation dip

Magnetic orientation has 2 dimensions


Dip angle (Inclination)

Curie point (T)

Fossil Magnetism / Paleomagnetism

N-S Orientation & Dip

Magnetic inclination

Magnetization = degrees from N pole

Magnetization + Latitude = 90°

e.g. Lavas from Puerto Rico show 75 ° from N pole & Puerto Rico = 15 ° from equator

Magnetic Inclination

Apparent polar wander

Apparent Polar Wander

Seafloor spreading

Seafloor Spreading



Progression of seafloor spreading

Progression of Seafloor Spreading

Plate boundaries

Plate Boundaries

Plate boundaries1

Plate Boundaries

  • Corresponds to Earthquakes & Volcanoes

Plate boundaries2

Plate Boundaries

  • Three Types

    • Divergent

      • AKA Rift

    • Convergent

      • AKA Subduction

    • Transform

      • AKA Strike-slip

Divergent boundaries

Divergent Boundaries

  • AKA Spreading Centers

  • AKA Rifts

  • Largest mountain chains

  • Plates move apart due to eruption of lava

    • New lava = new oceanic crust

  • Oldest oceanic crust 180Ma

Pillow basalts

Pillow Basalts

  • Form when lava extruded under water

  • Immediately outer layer freezes

  • New material pushes through like toothpaste

Continental rifting

Rifts also can form in continental settings

Linear depressions

Lakes, valleys, etc.

Asthenosphere thins due to tension

e.g. East Africa Rift Zone, Mt. Kilimanjaro

Continental Rifting

Continental rifting con t

Continental Rifting (con’t)

  • If tension continues, eventually continental rift develops into oceanic spreading

  • e.g. Red Sea, Sea of Cortez

Convergent boundaries

Convergent Boundaries

  • Old oceanic crust dense & heavy

  • Heavy vs. light => subduction

  • AKA destructive margins

  • Large earthquake & explosive volcanoes

  • Melting triggered at ~100km depth

Oceanic oceanic convergence

Oceanic-Oceanic Convergence

e.g. Virgin Islands, Japan, Philippines

Oceanic continental


e.g. Andes, MesoAmerica, Italy

Continental continental


e.g. India

Hot spots

Hot Spots

  • Caused by mantle plumes

  • Plumes do not move, plates do

  • Bend at 40Ma

    • Major change in plate motion

Relative plate motions

Relative Plate Motions

  • Relative to Hot Spots & other plates

  • Measure motions with Paleo-magnetism

Forces driving plate motions

Forces Driving Plate Motions

  • Convection of Mantle

  • Upwelling Mantle

    • Ridge-push

  • Slab Suction

    • AKA Slab-pull

Layer cake model

Layer-Cake Model

  • Two zones of convection, above & below ~660km

  • Explains why mid-ocean ridge basalt different than hot spot basalt

Whole mantle convection

Whole Mantle Convection

  • Cold oceanic crust descend to bottom of mantle, “stirring” it

  • Hot plumes rise from core-mantle boundary

    • Bring “primitive” mantle to surface

  • Not popular b/c complete mixing in 100s Ma

Deep layer model

Deep Layer Model

  • Heat from Earth’s interior causes two layers to shrink & swell

    • Similar to lava lamp

  • Small amt of material rises to surface to create hot spots

  • Little seismic evidence to support this model

Importance of plate tectonics

Importance of Plate Tectonics

  • First theory to provide comprehensive view & explain:

    • Earth’s major surficial processes

    • Geologic distribution of earthquakes, volcanoes & mountain ranges

    • Distribution of mineral resources & ancient organisms

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