Questions tagged [plate-tectonics]

The theory that Earth's outer shell is divided into several plates that glide over the mantle, the rocky inner layer above the core.

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15
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3answers
7k views

What do continents "lay" on?

It's a simple question.. What do continents "lay" on? Do they float on water? or are they huge bodies that "emerge" from the sea floor/bed? are they connected to the bottom of the oceans? Hope the ...
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1answer
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What are the causes of the supercontinent cycle?

Throughout geologic history, Earth's continents have broken apart and come together to form supercontinents multiple times, in a somewhat regular period, known as the supercontinent cycle. The length ...
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At what point does plate tectonics stop?

As the core and mantle of the earth cools, it will reach a point where new crust cannot be produced. How can this point be calculated? If we can, has anyone done such calculations? Thanks!
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What caused the bend in the Emperor/Hawaii chain of islands, 45 million years ago?

What caused the bend in the Emperor/Hawaii chain of islands, 45 million years ago? Has there been any updates to this mystery I am unaware of? Are there any new theories that could potentially ...
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How did Earth's plate tectonics start?

Plate tectonics is a theory which describes Earth's lithosphere as being composed of distinct plates which are able to move atop of the underlying asthenosphere. At plate boundaries, this movement ...
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1answer
529 views

Are mantle plumes distributed around the core randomly or in a known pattern?

Background: The theory of mantle plumes is useful (although controversial) in explaining the occurrence of intra-plate volcanoes. The website here suggests that "hotspots" exist in fixed locations ...
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2answers
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How could this pyramidal Mountain have been formed?

How could this pyramidal peak have been formed in Antarctica? Little is known about it as far as I know but what is known is that its miles away from any existing plate boundary and its shape is also ...
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What was the likely composition of Earth's early crust (how did crustal composition evolve)?

Was the first crust entirely mafic (oceanic) crust which was later distilled via volcanic arcs along subduction zones to make felsic rocks or did the earth start with bits of felsic crust? Are the ...
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2answers
381 views

What properties must a rocky body possess in order to exhibit plate tectonics?

The Earth exhibits plate tectonics, but the other terrestrial planets do not (though Mars and Venus may have exhibited plate tectonics in the past). What is "special" about Earth that allows it to ...
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6answers
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(Why) Is there more landmass on Earth's Northern hemisphere than the Southern Hemisphere?

This Question on Worldbuilding is based on the presumption that there is a greater amount of landmass on the Earth's Northern Hemisphere than there is on the Southern Hemisphere. While researching ...
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651 views

Why do some earthquakes and volcanoes occur within plates?

I know that volcanoes and earthquakes occur on plate margins. But, do some of them also occur within plates?
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1answer
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Why does the "Ring of Fire" pretty much define "Pacific Rim"

The Pacific Rim is pretty much defined by the so-called "Ring of Fire." It consists of the "stomping ground" for a disproportionate number of earthquakes and volcanoes, and the affected territory ...
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1answer
490 views

Is it ever possible for an continental plate to subduct under an oceanic plate?

It is well known that oceanic plates subduct under continental plates. This may be attributed to the plate's age and density, plus the water on top of it. So I was wondering if it is ever possible for ...
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1answer
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Volcanoes in the Alps and Himalayas and the subduction of Tethys Sea

Geologist have theorized that the Tethys Sea subducted under Eurasian plates. But where are the volcanoes that would have resulted due to this? Where are the volcanoes in the Alps and the Himalayas?
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How many times in total has Earth formed a super continent?

I know there was a Pangaea at one point in history that broke into the continents of today, but I could have sworn there was another instance in Earth's history that there was a super continent, maybe ...
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How would plate tectonics differ if Earth had no water?

Water plays a crucial role in plate tectonics by easing the brittle and ductile deformation of the Earth's lithosphere. Water lowers the Mohr-Coulomb for brittle fractures. During ductile deformation, ...
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1answer
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Why are oceanic plates denser than continental plates?

In the theory of tectonic plates, at a convergent boundary between a continental plate and an oceanic plate, the denser plate usually subducts underneath the less dense plate. It is well known that ...
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1answer
562 views

What are the geological mechanisms for sea floor spreading in the Bismarck Sea?

The North and South Bismarck microplates (north east of Papua New Guinea) are separated by a ridge of sea floor spreading, as described in Oregon State webpage as The tectonics in this part of the ...
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1answer
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When a tectonic plate subducts, does any of the subducted material melt, or is it just the mantle above the subducted slab that melts?

I know that water released from oceanic crust causes melting of the mantle in subduction zones, but does any part of the subducted slab melt as well - such as the sediments on the slab or the basalt? ...
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1answer
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What is the definition of a continent?

Is there a scientific definition of a continent? Is there an academic reference for such a definition? There's a tendency to correlate with tectonic plates, but of course lots of plates don't have ...
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5answers
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Why is continental crust less dense than oceanic?

Why is it that continental crust is less dense than oceanic, where in fact continental crust is thicker than oceanic crust?
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1answer
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Has our understanding of the East African Rift significantly changed recently?

I've noticed many reports in the media about the East African Rift Valley recently, apparently because some large fissures opened up. Washington Post: A huge crack provides evidence that Africa is ...
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1answer
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Himalayas are currently rising. What will be the highest point they can reach?

Himalayas are currently rising about 5 mm/year. What will be the highest point they can reach?
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Is there evidence to delineate where a southern extension of the East African Rift 'plate boundary' is developing?

The East African Rift system is described by James Wood and Alex Guth of Michigan Technological University in the Geology.com web-article East Africa's Great Rift Valley: A Complex Rift System as ...
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1answer
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Can Venus be considered to be tectonically active?

Venus is noted for its absence of spreading ridges, transform faults, and subduction zones, which are characteristic of plate tectonics on Earth. But given that it exhibits rift zones, mountain belts ...
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Historically, how has the fraction of Earth covered by water changed?

Today, 70.8% of the Earth is covered in water (± a few tenths of a percent depending on how you account for lakes).1 How has this figure changed over the history of the Earth, and why? Of course, if ...
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How much heat is transported from the interior to the surface in the form of hydration enthalpy?

Heat is transferred from the interior to the surface through several methods. One is simply the conduction of sensible heat through the crust - I would guess this accounts for most of it. But some is ...
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Why is there a line of volcanoes along the northwest coast of North America?

Mount Hood in Oregon is a dormant volcano, and in Washington Mount St. Helens and Mt. Ranier are both active volcanoes. What causes this line of volcanoes running parallel to the coastline along the ...
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Can an earthquake occurring within two plates trigger another earthquake in a far away plate boundary?

Can an earthquake occurring between two plates, like the Pacific Plate and North American Plate cause any effect which would trigger an earthquake in a far away place like the boundary between the ...
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4answers
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What do the derivative or the integral of amplitude of a seismogram mean?

I'm doing a project in which I'm analyzing earthquake seismogram waves. I used a program to graph the exact amplitudes and how they changed over the course of a single earthquake. For the project I ...
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Will the oceans swallow all of the land?

I am wondering why, since the oceans could feasibly hold all of the dry land, they in fact do not. For example, the Mariana Trench drops to -10.9km, while Mount Everest only reaches to +8.8km. ...
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2answers
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Do Tectonic Plates Merge?

I had a question concerning the nature of continental plates. When looking at the Eurasian Plate today, for the most part, there is one solid fragment of the Earth's crust. However, having had a look ...
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4answers
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Do divergent tectonic plates destroy mountains?

Tectonic plates meeting (convergent plates) form mountains. But if those plates change direction (which I am just assuming they can over time, I have no idea if it's true) and start pulling apart (...
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What are the tectonic implications of the Quaternary Igwisi Hills, Tanzania, kimberlite volcanics?

The Igwisi Hills Kimberlite volcanic features in Tanzania are described in the article Mapping the Igwisi Hills kimberlite volcanoes, Tanzania: understanding how deep-sourced mantle magmas behave at ...
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Gaps in locations of volcanos (Peru & Chile)

The figure below is taken from Reath, K. et al. (2019) A couple of things can be seen from this representation Volcanism seems to be strongly correlated with subduction zones, in this case the Nazca ...
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Are the oceans rising or the continents going down? How can we know?

The century old sustained rising of oceans, at a rate of 2-4 mm/y, remains a unexplained phenomenon; there is no correlation with temperature variations, so it is not due to the thermal variation of ...
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1answer
727 views

Are volcanoes formed from earthquakes?

I know that some earthquakes are caused by volcanoes and that some earthquakes can trigger volcanic eruptions close to where the earthquake is. But what if a great earthquake(8.0 or above) occurs and ...
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Do tectonic plates "float" over the mantle and "collide" like icebergs?

I'm always hearing about tectonic plates as large chunks of crust floating on the mantle just like boats. In timescales of millions of years they move and even collide. But I'm starting to think this ...
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1answer
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Can a shock wave travel around the Earth's curvature?

Can an explosion be felt in the ground on the opposite side of the Earth like from an asteroid? Would planes in the air on that side of the Earth be able to survive? Does the shock waive follow the ...