Tectonic Plates and its Effects on the Physical Face of the Earth Essay

Tectonic Plates and its Effects on the Physical Face of the Earth Essay

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Tectonic Plates and its Effects on the Physical Face of the Earth

For millions of years, tectonic plates have been determinate of changes in the physical face of the earth, and they continue to do so today. These massive plates move underneath the surfaces of the oceans and the continents, producing earthquakes, volcanoes and uplifts. This paper will discuss the composition, movement and history of tectonic plates, the theory of plate tectonics and its history, and tectonic plates affect the surface of the earth today and will continue to do so in the future.

The earth is divided into three main layers: the core, the mantle and the crust. The core is further divided into the solid inner core and the liquid outer core. This layer is mostly iron and nickel and is extremely hot. The mantle is divided into the lower and upper mantle and is composed mostly of iron, magnesium, silicon, and oxygen. The outermost layer, which contains all life on earth, is the crust. This layer is rich in oxygen and silicon as well as aluminum, iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and sodium. It is in between the crust and the mantle that we find tectonic plates. The outermost layers of the earth are divided into two categories based on their physical properties. The asthenosphere is the lower of these categories, composed of clastic or flowing mantle. The upper layer is known as the lithosphere and contains both the top, rigid layer of the mantle and the crust. The lithosphere is what makes up the tectonic plates. The composition of these plates is based on their location. Plates under the surface of the ocean are made of mostly of basalt, while continental plates are comprised of rocks such as andesite and granite.

It is generally believed that there are 12 plates that make up the earth’s surface. The majority of these plates are a combination of oceanic and continental lithosphere, while the Nazca, Pacific and Juan de Fuca Plates are made up of mostly oceanic lithosphere. Most of the continents have their own plate or plates, with the exception of Europe and Asia, which share the massive Eurasian Plate. Along the edges of these plates there is a large occurrence of geologic activity. “Earthquakes and volcanoes, evidence of unrest in the Earth, help locate the edges of plates.” This unrest is caused by movement of the plates, which can be broken down into three general t...


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... of fire in the Pacific Ocean. This is the boundary between the Pacific plate and several other plates. Also, the San Andreas Fault, in California, which is situated on the boundary between the Pacific and North American Plates, sees a large amount of earthquake activity. Another dangerous effect of plate movement which is common in the Asian Pacific is the Tsunami, a huge ocean wave created by earthquakes and plate movements deep under the ocean’s surface. While these events can all be seen as natural disasters, the benefits tectonic plates have to offer the human race are plentiful. Volcanoes produce some of the most fertile soil on earth, while magma that does not erupt from a volcano often forms huge ore deposits beneath the surface. A relatively young science is that of geothermal energy, or the harnessing of heat or pressure from volcanoes, geysers and steam which can be converted into heat and electricity for human use. While it is important to acknowledge the immediate and disastrous ramifications of plate tectonics, such as volcanoes and earthquakes, it is equally as imperative that humans recognize the huge potential for advancement provided by this natural occurrence.

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