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TECTONIC PLATES
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This section is related to the geological forces section.

TECTONIC PLATE THEORY DIAGRAM
exploring-plate-tectonics.jpg
Notice how subduction and sea floor spreading work together.

Break up and drifting of continental plates.
pangaea.jpg
Where might our continents be in 50 million years?

Wegener had some excellent proof that his theory of continental drift was correct.  However, he was unable to come up with the force that actually moved these gigantic continental plates (about 2 centimeters a year).  His theory was rejected because of this.  Later, scientists identified these forces as convection forces deep in the mantle which work the same way as soup being warmed up on a stove.

Continental Drift

This guy named Wegener claims the continents were once joined together,

While other geologist said the chance that this happened is absolutely never.

Wegener was put on the defense and was pressured to prove his theory,

That the continents were all joined as one called Pangaea; many were still leery.

So he set about to look for proof that his theory was on the mark,

And looked for mountain ranges and coal fields to match up; was he groping in the dark?

Well, he found fossils of the same creature on different continents,

These creatures couldn't swim across the ocean; now things are starting to look pertinent.

Furthermore, he found evidence of continental glaciers in places that are now quite hot,

Making him think these places were once nearer to the Earth's poles, regrettably many still said, "NOT."

For weather patterns continuously change in our strange and mysterious world,

And can change without continents changing position, so this theory was righteously hurled.

Poor Wegener thought he had proved his theory beyond a shadow of a doubt,

While science again rejected his theory, claiming there was one big unanswered question they could still proudly flout..

Which was, "What force makes these mighty land masses move as if floating like a plate?"

With this question, Wegener was strangely silent, was sinking into obscurity his unalterable fate?

Well, it was a while until scientists identified previously unknown and powerful awesome forces,

But, alas, poor Wegener was long dead not knowing his name would be eulogized in several university courses.

CLICK HERE FOR CONTINENTAL DRIFT WORK SHEET.

How convection forces warm up soup.
soup.jpg
Convection forces seem to be the force responsible for continental drift.

Deformation

Stress on Earth’s crust produces compression, shearing and tension.

Faults are cracks in earth’s crust resulting from stress must I mention.

Faults and folding of the crust cause mountains and other features to form on the surface of the Earth.

These geological forces have been shaping our wondrous planet since it's primordial birth.

These powerful forces work both to the benefit and the detriment of humankind.

Nature is indifferent to our fate you will most likely unerringly find.

Unleashing earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, tornadoes, hurricanes and fire,

But take heart, the situation for us is not entirely dire,

For it is a changing earth that gave life the opportunity to grab it razor thin chance,

And without life, how could you run outside, jump about, do cartwheels, sing and dance?

Read the following poem about earthquakes to completely understand how an earthquake releases its energy.  Study this picture first to add to your understanding and appreciation.

How an earthquake works.
earthquakes-and-seismic.jpg
Notice the difference between p and s waves.

Earthquakes

An earthquake is one of the strangest mysteries in the world,

For if the very ground we walk on is unsteady, what more will nature unfurl?

Well, don’t take it personally, it’s only Mother Nature readjusting her tectonic plates,

Not knowing that her readjustments can very much decide present and future fate.

When a tectonic plate slips a bit, they release energy in the form of seismic waves.

The more friction that exists between these plates, the greater the jolt; structures will cave.

Like buildings and houses, which were not retrofitted to withstand a powerful earthquake,

The focus of energy starting deep underground in the form of primary and secondary waves, and then, a big shake,

As these waves move up to the surface epicenter producing surface wave, now this we can really feel,

That the Earth is bumping, grinding, and twisting, now do you believe tectonic plates are real?

Any force that changes the shape of the earth's crust in any way is an example of deformation.  Can you think of some possible forces that may have formed these mountains?  Read the poem on deformation to help you out.

Sequoia National Park.
seq1-sf.jpg
A demonstration of deformation.

Shearing, compression and tension.
compression.jpg
These three forces cause deformation of the earth's crust.

Sea Floor Spreading and Subduction

Well, Wegener’s “Theory of Continental Drift” was finally beginning to ring true,

When scientists began to understand mighty forces that they never understood or knew.

These two powerful forces are called sea floor spreading and subduction, allow me to explain,

How these forces are powerful enough to move continents, listen you have much to gain.

Sea floor spreading is when magna rises at the mid oceanic ridge and forms new crust,

While its opposite, subduction, is when two oceanic plates meet and one goes bust.

The denser of these two plates sinks under the other plate and back into the mantle it melts.

That’s right, sea floor spreading and subduction work together like one big giant conveyor belt.

It’s the theory of plate tectonics, which explains the movement of these awesome and giant plates.

Indeed it is the fact that the earth is always changing which very much depends our fate.

Understand that if nothing changes, the chance of life taking hold is indeed quite slim,

And our earth could be like the moon, absolutely lifeless, now wouldn’t that be extremely grim.

CLICK HERE FOR WORK SHEET ON SUBDUCTION, EARTHQUAKES AND DEFORMATION.

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