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Tectonics

Tectonics

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Plate Tectonics

Dr. R. B. Schultz

Plate Tectonics
Without question, the theory of ´plate tectonicsµ is the most important advancement in earth sciences in the 20th century. It provides the framework for earth processes that previously were known to exist, but it was unknown why these activities occurred. Because the portions of the earth's interior and differences between continental and oceanic crust are an essential part of plate tectonics, it is worth our while to review these concepts briefly: Earth's crust (lithosphere) is composed of several elements crucial to our existence. In order of their abundance, these eight (8) elements are: 1. Oxygen 2. Silicon 3. Aluminum 4. Iron 5. Calcium 6. Sodium 7. Potassium 8. Magnesium

Lithosphere and the solid earth: the solid earth lies beneath the atmosphere and the oceans and composes 29% of the earth's surface. It is divided into several distinct units or layers: a. Lithosphere or crust: two (2) types of crust: oceanic and continental with basic differences *Oceanic crust is thinner and denser and usually darker in color *Continental crust is lighter in weight, less dense, light in color, and tends to float over oceanic crust b. Mantle: beneath the crust; houses molten rock material called magma c. Outer core: composed of liquid iron and nickel; very dense material d. Inner core: composed of solid iron and nickel; extremely dense material The upper mantle and lower crust (lithosphere) are referred to as the asthenosphere. *There is a distinct seismic discontinuity where seismic waves slow down considerably due to the composition of molten rock. This is located in the asthenosphere and is referred to as the Mohorovicic Discontinuity, after the Russian scientist who discovered it. We refer to it as the "Moho".

History of Events Leading up to the Formulation of the Theory of Plate Tectonics
*Note that plate tectonics is a theory. It is not something that we can directly sample or touch, or for that matter prove. That is why we will refer to it as a theory. *In 1915, a Bavarian scientist named Alfred Wegener (later referred to as the "Father of Plate Tectonics") noticed, while working near the North Pole, that his compass needle did not point to where north "should" have been. In other words, true north and magnetic north were in two separate localities. Wegener theorized that the poles (both North and South) were "wandering" with time. He called this "Polar Wandering". *Subsequent to his theory, he began to also notice how continents fit together like a jigsaw puzzle«most notably the western coast of Africa and the eastern coast of South America. In addition, rocks from these localities were the same rock type, same age, and contained the same age and type of fossils. His revised theory became known as "Continental Drift", because he realized that it was not the poles that shifted, but the continents themselves. *Wegener died of a heart attack on a voyage studying glaciers near the North Pole in early 1930 and his work was virtually forgotten for several decades.

3. Shape of continents fit like a jigsaw puzzle. 2.Correlation of Africa and South America by Wegener Evidence used by Wegener: 1. 4. Similar fossils on both continents Mountain belts line up Mineral belts line up .

and Africa all fit together. South America. . Europe.Further evidence used by Wegener to support continental drift hypothesis: Mountains line up in Northern Hemisphere North America.

and Australia were all once glaciated. South America.Explanation by Wegener that presentpresent-day Africa. . India.

but a magnetic polarity image resulted as well. Further findings revealed that not only did the stripes have the same age of rocks. He theorized that the rift zone was oozing out magma material from submarine volcanoes and that the material spread laterally across either sides of the rift. As time progressed. He noticed that rocks on either side of a prominent geologic feature in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean (called the mid-oceanic rift zone) were a perfect mirror image of each other on either side of the rift zone. as part of a series of drill voyages aboard the research vessel. Glomar Challenger. Frederick Vine and Drummond Matthews. *Later in the 1960·s. They published first in a rather obscure journal and then on the lecture circuit at Scripps Oceanographic Institute. revisited Wegener's findings and combined them with Hess' discoveries to formulate a new package called "Plate Tectonics". . Hess took more and more samples to back up his findings. discovered the principles of magnetic patterns on the ocean floor and went on the road to present their discoveries. showing that during earth history there have been several "magnetic reversals" (A time when the compass needle would have pointed south instead of north). Robert Palmer and Donald Mackenzie are credited with naming and synthesizing the theory of ´plate tectonicsµ. a Cambridge University professor/student team. *In the late 1960's and early 1970's. Harry Hess. two scientists.*It was not until the advent of World War II that a technology (Echo Sounding) developed to a degree that a stunning discovery was made by a geologist and seaboat commander.

Echo Sounding Device Used By Hess .

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. we will learn HOW and WHY plates move and what happens when they collide or pull apart from each other.The Dynamics of Plate Tectonics Here.

plates move away from each other (tension) 3. Divergent -.plates horizontally grind against one another (strike-slip motion) .plates move towards each other (compression) 2. Convergent -. The plate motion is driven by one or more of the following mechanisms: 1. Push-Pull Slab -. Volcanoes tend to erupt at plate margins as a result of a process called subduction 2.heat transfer by touching plates 3. Seafloor spreading occurs where two oceanic plates pull apart There are three (3) major types of plate boundaries (margins): 1. some push together and some move horizontally against each other. Transform -.heavy slabs pull plates downward and magma forced upward pushes plates to the surface (upwelling) *There are several geological processes that occur where plates meet (called plate boundaries or margins): 1.The theory of plate tectonics is that rigid lithospheric plates move across the surface of the earth. Some pull apart. Conduction -.heat transferred by movement of a fluid (magma) 2. Convection -. There are approximately 12 major and 8 minor plates that move in concert with each other. Earthquakes occur where plates grind against or over one other 3. Mountain building occurs as one plate is pushed over another 4.

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Types of Plate Boundaries: Divergent Convergent Transform .

Oceanic spreading center with convection of magma occurring in the mantle. .

Transform Fault Zone .Convection Cell Development in Mantle A. Oceanic Rift Zone C. Volcanic Arc B.

Volcanic Zones Depicting Plate Boundaries .

Earthquake Zones in Relation to Plate Boundaries .

Subducting Plate .

´Hot Spotµ Volcanism .

oceanic Divergent plate boundaries are associated with the following: ‡ a. 3. Mountain building processes e.*Plate boundaries can occur on landmasses (continents) or in marine settings (oceans) or both at the same time. Horizontal grinding motion ‡ b. Tension or extension (pulling apart) ‡ b. Strike-slip faulting ‡ c. Normal faulting ‡ c. Rifting (as in the mid-oceanic rift zone) ‡ d. Convergent plate movement is associated with the following: a. 2. continent Continent vs. Continent vs. Creation of magma material inside the rift zone Transform boundaries are associated with the following: ‡ a. Creation of a subduction zone d. Collisions of plates: ² ² ² 1. oceanic Oceanic vs. Compression b. Lateral offset of rock units . Reverse faulting c.

Oceanic Continental vs. Continental .Collision Zones: Continent vs. Oceanic Oceanic vs.

Oceanic Collision Zone .Continent vs.

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Asia .Example of Continent vs. Continent Collision Zone: India vs.

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: Japan. Rift Zones (Spreading centers) are located: a. Basaltic rocks b. a. Subducting oceanic plate. Granitic/Andesitic rocks Seismic (Earthquake) Zones associated with Plate Tectonics: 1. partial melting and rising of magma. in the "Benioff Zone" 3.Volcanic Zones (both continental and oceanic in origin) associated with Plate Tectonics are located: 1. Philippines). Continental rift zone (ex.. Park).: mid-oceanic rift). Basaltic rocks b. "Hot Spot" Volcanism is located: a. ocean collision (ex. Pacific NW of U. Ocean . Granitic rocks 3. Oceanic. Basaltic rocks 2.: Yellowstone Nat. ocean collision (ex. Subduction zones Continent vs.ocean divergent zones (ex. (ex. Deep focus as slab of crust is pulled by sheer gravity .: Andes Mts.: East African Rift Zone).S Ocean vs.: Hawaiian Islands chain). shallow focus as plate subducts 2. Continental. (ex. Intermediate focus earthquakes.

East African Rift Zone .

zone: volcanic island arc. volcanic arc. Continental: granitic. no magmatic activities. Continent vs. andesitic volcanic rock. Continent vs. Oceanic collision zone: subduction zone. mountain building processes. 2. (East African Rift Zone) . 2. no volcanism. 4. basaltic magma. basaltic volcanic rock. 3. 1. Oceanic vs. Also. Oceanic collision zone deep sea trench associated. Divergent zone Oceanic. spreading center (Midzone: Ocean Ridge).Features/Landforms Associated with Plate Tectonics 1. deep sea trench associated. Continent collision zone: Granitic rocks.

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thinner. subduction (1960's) Robert Palmer and Donald McKenzie . Oceanic crust Continental crust = lighter. Ca) Basaltic Layers of the Earth Lithosphere/crust = outermost Mantle houses magma (molten rock) Outer core is liquid iron and nickel Inner core is solid iron and nickel Evolutionary history of Plate Tectonics Development Alfred Wegener . K. thicker. Mg.synthesizers of previous ideas.polar wandering and continental drift (1912-1930) Harry Hess . Granitic Oceanic crust = darker. Si).Plate Tectonics Summary Continental vs. denser (Fe.magnetic polarities. includes both oceanic and continental crust Three types of plate boundaries or margins: Convergent: compression Divergent: tension/extension Transform: strike-slip horizontal motion Occurrences/activities at plate boundaries Earthquakes Volcanoes Mountain building Seafloor spreading .seafloor spreading (late 1950's and early 1960's) Frederick Vine and Drummond Matthews . less dense (Al. named "plate tectonics" Plate Dynamics 12-15 major lithospheric plates.

never deeper than 500 miles (700 km) plate completely melted . (Pacific NW) and Andes Mts. (Western S.Convergent Plate Boundaries Continental vs. Asia collision Divergent plate boundaries Mid-oceanic ridge (rift zone) with basaltic pillow lava volcanoes East African rift zone with granitic rock Transform boundaries Ridge-ridge faults .continental setting (San Andreas Fault in California) Earthquakes in convergent zones Shallow focus near deep sea trench Intermediate focus where oceanic plate melts (Benioff Zone) Deep focus . Oceanic crust Volcanic island arc with basaltic volcanoes Deep sea trench with NO subduction zone Continental vs. America) Subduction zone with deep sea trench Volcanic arc with Andesitic volcanoes Oceanic vs. Continental crust Granitic mountains but NO volcanoes Strong earthquakes as in India vs..in oceanic setting Strike-slip faults . Oceanic crust: Cascade Mts.

Africa.especially at leading edge of subduction zones and mid-oceanic ridges Miscellaneous Gondwanaland .S. next "Pangaea" in 250 million years from now . America.transference of heat from one plate to another Push-pull slab .ocean vs. Antarctica.Volcanoes Andesitic .in subduction zones Basaltic . and Australia bunched at S. Yellowstone National Park in continental setting Causes for Plate Movement Convection -cells of magma (lava lamp type movement) . ocean collision zones and mid-oceanic ridge "Hot Spot" .most probable cause Conduction .Hawaiian Islands chain in ocean setting. Pole 300+ million years ago Pangaea: "Super continent" that split apart 200 million years ago.

Key Terminology Oceanic crust Lithosphere Mantle Inner Core Mohorovicic Discontinuity (Moho) Continental Drift Harry Hess Echo Sounding Glomar Challenger Frederick Vine Robert Palmer Plate Tectonics Conduction Convergent Transform Subduction Zone Volcanic Arc ´Hot Spotµ Volcanism Benioff Zone Gondwanaland Continental crust Asthenosphere Magma Outer Core Polar Wandering Alfred Wegener Seafloor Spreading Mid-Oceanic Ridge (Rift) Zone Magnetic Reversal Drummond Matthews Donald MacKenzie Convection Push-Pull Slab Divergent Plate Boundary (Margin) Deep Sea Trench Volcanic Island Arc Collision Zones East African Rift Zone Pangaea .

Ask a Geologist (USGS) Have a geological question? Here is your chance to ask it. Nordic Volcanological Institute This site contains the geology and tectonics of Iceland. (The site may be slow to connect. interactive plate tectonics tutorial from the United States Geological Survey. Hot Spot Activity (Geosphere) An excellent interactive activity on hot spots from the University of Montana's Geosphere. Dynamic Earth Tutorial (USGS) An excellent online.Pertinent Web Sites Active Tectonics Web Server The Active Tectonics Web Server was established to effectively disseminate ideas resulting from the Active Tectonics initiative. With this activity learners study mantle convection and utilize image processing techniques to determine sizes of geologic formations of Hawaii and Yellowstone National Park from remote sensing data. American Geophysical Union (AGU) researchers. . Moving Plates Activity (Geosphere) An excellent interactive activity on calculating plate motion from the University of Montana's Geosphere. Map of Plate Boundaries (NEIS) Map of plate boundaries from the National Earthquake Information Center. but its usually there. Hawaii Undersea Geo-Observatory (HUGO) The Hawaii Undersea Geo-Observatory (HUGO) is an automated submarine volcano observatory installed on the summit of the undersea Loihi seamount and connected to the shore via fiber optic cable. Ocean Drilling Program The Ocean Drilling Program home page with links to related agencies and institutions. and science administrators have dedicated themselves to advancing the understanding of the Earth and its environment in space and making the results available to the public. American Geophysical Union (AGU) For over 75 years. Marine Geology & Geophysics (NGDC) The Marine Geology & Geophysics Division of the NOAA National Geophysical Data Center (NGDC) and the collocated World Data Center A for Marine Geology and Geophysics (WDC-A for MGG) compiles and maintains extensive databases in both coastal and open ocean areas. teachers. With this activity learners use numeric representations to identify the positions and perform absolute/relative plate motion calculations using Internet resources. Global Earth History The Global Earth history site uses a series of plate-tectonic reconstructions to show the broad patterns of Phanerozoic Earth history.) JOIDES Resolution Page The JOIDES Resolution is the drillship of the Ocean Drilling Program.

Plate Motion Calculator An interactive plate motion calculator from the University of Tokyo. with the AUTO option. earthquake wave propagation. Plate Motion Calculator (UNAVCO) This program is designed for the calculation of plate motion at any location on Earth.) Plate Tectonics Animations Excellent animations of faults. and other processes from PBS' Savage Earth program. Mark Francek lists several good links to Web sites containing information relative to topics discussed in the chapter. Plate Tectonics Information (USGS) United States Geologic Survey (USGS) information on plate tectonics and sea-floor spreading. You can specify the tectonic plate or. identify relationships between earthquake epicenters and sites of active volcanism. the east velocity. the north velocity) in mm/yr. (The site may be slow to connect. and Nvel.Ocean Floor Ages Map A great global map illustrating ocean floor ages from NOAA. Paleomap This Web site illustrates plate tectonics development of the ocean basins and continents. including projections for the future. plate subduction. but its usually there. and create a scale model of the Earth's layered structure. With this activity learners use current satellite images to determine sea floor spreading rates. Ocean Floor Animations A good visualization of the Pacific hemisphere plate tectonic history. let the program determine which plate the point is on. . Program returns with the plate model velocity components (Evel. Ocean Floor Datasets Ocean floor data and images from Columbia University. Plate Tectonics Animations (USGS) Great plate tectonics animations from the United States Geological Survey²a must see! Plate Tectonics Information (NEIS) National Earthquake Information Center (NEIS) plate tectonics information. Plate Tectonics Activity (Geosphere) An excellent interactive activity on plate tectonics from the University of Montana's Geosphere. Plate Tectonics Links This Central Michigan University site maintained by Dr.

Plate Tectonics Tutorial (1 of 2) Plate tectonics tutorial from Texas A & M University. Okino and K. Tectonic Plate Motion (Space Geodesy) An excellent site that explains how NASA monitors plate motions. Related Topics Index Information on several topics related to plate tectonics from the University of North Dakota's VolcanoWorld site. The system is developed and maintained by K. Seafloor Spreading Calculator This "Seafloor Spreading Rates Calculator" calculates the spreading rate at any point on mid-ocean ridges. . Plate Tectonics (NASA's Observatorium) A good tutorial on plate tectonics. a world leader in the field of oceanography. Tamaki of Ocean Research Institute.Plate Tectonics Links (Houghton Mifflin) Links to several plate tectonics sites. and exchanging data obtained from measurements of the seafloor. University of Tokyo. Berkeley) This University of California. Plate Tectonics Tutorial (2 of 2) Plate tectonics tutorial from Texas A & M University. arranged by topic. Plate Tectonics (University of California. Scripps Institution of Oceanography The Scripps Institution of Oceanography home page features numerous links to related oceanography Web sites. managing. Berkeley. San Andreas Fault and the Bay Area A virtual field trip along the San Andreas fault. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Plate Tectonics Tutorial (VolcanoWorld) An in-depth review of plate tectonics from VolcanoWorld. World Data Center for Marine Geology & Geophysics The World Data Center for Marine Geology & Geophysics promotes excellence in archiving. including class lecture notes. Web site explains the history and science of tectonics and also contains animations showing the movement of plates. have been probing the mysteries of the oceans for more than 65 years.

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