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Following the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Harry Fielding Reid examined the displacement of
the ground surface around the San Andreas Fault. From his observations he concluded that
the earthquake must have been the result of the elastic rebound of previously stored
elastic strain energy in the rocks on either side of the fault.

Elastic rebound theory states that as tectonic plates move relative to each other, elastic strain energy
builds up along their edges in the rocks along fault planes. Since fault planes are not usually very
smooth, great amounts of energy can be stored (if the rock is strong enough) as movement is restricted
due to interlock along the fault. When the shearing stresses induced in the rocks on the fault planes
exceed the shear strength of the rock, rupture occurs.

In geology, the elastic rebound theory was the first theory to satisfactorily explain earthquakes.
Previously it was thought that ruptures of the surface were the result of strong ground shaking rather
than the converse suggested by this theory.

It follows from this that if rocks along the fault are of a certain strength, the fault is a certain length, and
the plates are slipping past each other at a defined rate, it is possible to calculate the amount of time it
will take to build up enough elastic strain energy to cause an earthquake and its probable magnitude.

Strike slip

The fault surface is usually near vertical and the footwall moves either left or right or laterally with very
little vertical motion. Strike-slip faults with left-lateral motion are also known as sinistral faults. Those
with right-lateral motion are also known as dextral faults.[7] Each is defined by the direction of
movement of the ground on the opposite side of the fault from an observer.

Dip-slip faults

can occur either as "reverse" or as "normal" faults. A normal fault occurs when the crust is extended.
Alternatively such a fault can be called an extensional fault. The hanging wall moves downward, relative
to the footwall. A reverse fault is the opposite of a normal faultthe hanging wall moves up relative to
the footwall. Reverse faults indicate compressive shortening of the crust.

Oblique slip

A fault which has a component of dip-slip and a component of strike-slip is termed an oblique-slip fault.
Nearly all faults will have some component of both dip-slip and strike-slip

Continental drift is the movement of the Earth's continents relative to each other, thus appearing to
"drift" across the ocean bed.[2] The speculation that continents might have 'drifted' was first put
forward by Abraham Ortelius in 1596. The concept was independently and more fully developed
by Alfred Wegener in 1912.

Wegener was convinced that all of Earths continents were once part of an enormous, single landmass
called Pangaea.
The theory of continental drift was not accepted for many years. One problem was that a plausible
driving force was missing.[2] Wegener suggested that perhaps the rotation of the Earth caused the
continents to shift towards and apart from each other. A second problem was that Wegener's estimate
of the velocity of continental motion, 250 cm/year, was implausibly high.[32] (The currently accepted
rate for the separation of the Americas from Europe and Africa is about 2.5 cm/year).

Today, we know that the continents rest on massive slabs of rock called tectonic plates. The plates are
always moving and interacting in a process called plate tectonics.

Evidence for the movement of continents on tectonic plates is Similar plant and animal fossils are found
around the shores of different continents, suggesting that they were once joined.

Plate tectonics

The Earth's crust is divided into huge, thick plates that drift atop the soft mantle. The plates are made of
rock and are from 50 to 250 miles (80 to 400 km) thick. They move both horizontally and vertically. Over
long periods of time, the plates also change in size as their margins are added to, crushed together, or
pushed back into the Earth's mantle.

The theory of plate tectonics (meaning "plate structure") was developed in the 1960's. This theory
explains the movement of the Earth's plates (which has since been documented scientifically) and also
explains the cause of earthquakes, volcanoes, oceanic trenches, mountain range formation, and other
geologic phenomenon.

The plates are moving at a speed that has been estimated at 1 to 10 cm per year. Most of the Earth's
seismic activity (volcanos and earthquakes) occurs at the plate boundaries as they interact.

The top layers of the plates are called the crust. Oceanic crust (the crust under the oceans) is thinner
and denser than continental crust. Crust is constantly being created and destroyed; oceanic crust is
more active than continental crust.

TYPES OF PLATE MOVEMENT: Divergence, Convergence, and Lateral Slipping

At the boundaries of the plates, various deformations occur as the plates interact; they separate from
one another (seafloor spreading), collide (forming mountain ranges), slip past one another (subduction
zones, in which plates undergo destruction and remelting), and slip laterally.