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GEOL 101 Plate Tectonics

by: Victoria Williams

GEOL 101 Plate Tectonics GEOL 101

Marketplace > George Mason University > Geology > GEOL 101 > GEOL 101 Plate Tectonics
Victoria Williams
GPA 3.8

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About this Document

These notes comprehensively cover everything on plate tectonics in the lectures.
Introductory Geology
Mark Uhen
Class Notes
Geology, Plate Tectonics, Natural Science
25 ?




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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Victoria Williams on Saturday February 20, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to GEOL 101 at George Mason University taught by Mark Uhen in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 19 views. For similar materials see Introductory Geology in Geology at George Mason University.


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Date Created: 02/20/16
Plate Tectonics  Plate tectonics is the underlying paradigm of modern geology o Unifies much of that data about the earth that was once thought to be unconnected o The theory is relatively new, started in the 1960’s and accepted over 1970’s o The theory of plate tectonics states that the crust and the uppermost mantle are  broken into a series of plates that move around the surface of the earth.  Wegener 1915 noted that continental margins fit together like puzzle pieces, proposed a  single supercontinent, called Pangea. South America and Africa fit together particularly  well  Evidence?  o Fossil Faunas. Across the Southern continents when they were all together  (Gondowana), fossils of many different creatures and plants were found across the continents that wouldn’t have been able to swim to get to the other continents, so  they had to be connected. o More evidence? Mountain ranges line up along with specific types of rocks. There is also matching glacial evidence on South America, Africa, and Australia. A  giant glacier in old Antarctica left marks on these continents that can be seen  today.  Continental drift: where did Wegener go wrong? o Wegener challenged the existing scientific paradigm, which was that continents  were stable. o He had no believable mechanism by which the continents could move  Earth’s Magnetic Field o Dip needles can measure your latitude on the earth by sensing magnetic fields and where you are placed on earth o Apparent Polar Wandering – the poles have wandered in the past, showing where  the continents moved  Geomagnetic Reversal o Every few million years, the magnetic poles of the earth reverse. The way it is  now is ‘Normal’ and the opposite way is ‘Reversed’ o Scientists can tell when the poles switch through the colors of certain magmatic  rocks. White means normal, red means reversed  Oceanic Magnetic Stripes o The rocks of the ocean floor have stripes of the red and the white rock. And there  is one distinct line that divides the rock, and the rock is symmetrical in color on  either side. The line is called a ridge axis o When magma comes through the ridge, it rises and crystalizes, it then gains the  color of the magnetic pole orientation at the time. o As the magma comes up and solidifies, the ocean floor moves. This is Sea Floor  Spreading. o The Sea Floor Spreading causes the earth’s plates to move apart. All land masses  are connected to the plates and they move with them. o As the plates move and grow, some parts of the plates subduct under other plates  and are ‘recycled’ back into the mantle. Gravity plays a part in how these plates  move, spread, and subduct.   Geo Trivia o How many major plates are on the surface of the earth? Answer: 7 main plates o Plates can have only oceanic crust on it, but there is often a mix of oceanic and  continental crust  Two kinds of crust o Continental – Thicker, about 25­70km thick, less dense, composition: granite, not  recycled o Oceanic – Very thin, only about 7­10km thick, but more dense, composition:  basalt, recycled  Three kinds of plate boundaries: o Divergent – Plates move apart, mantle comes up and makes more oceanic crust.  Ex. Mid­Atlantic Ridge, a ridge in the Atlantic that is broken up into segments  that are connected by transform fault lines.  Juan de Fuca plate makes new crust that is almost immediately consumed  under North America. This plate will disappear soon.  Continental Rifting – Mantle coming up under a continent, creating dense  ocean crust that lies lower than the continent, allowing a small linear sea  to form, which can then become a larger ocean. o Convergent – Plates come together  Oceanic crust coming in contact with continental crust, the oceanic crust is more dense so it will always subduct under the continental crust. When the oceanic crust subducts and starts partial melting in the mantle, the melted  material will come up and create volcanoes/mountains  Example – West coast of South America o Transform – Plates slide past one another  Not common, mostly in the ocean.   Rarely on continents, but there is one in North America in California. It is  called the San Andreas Fault system  Hot Spots o Mantle plumes under the crust, a collection of super­hot magma that begins to rise in one area o Magma will rise through the crust and release through it. This creates a volcano  on either continental crust or oceanic crust. If enough magma comes through, it  will form an island. o The hot spot remains in the same spot, and as the plate moves the hot spot will  keep punching through and create a chain of islands (ex. Hawaii)  o Hot spots can also be under continents, an example in North America is in  Yellowstone   Mechanisms o Ridge Push – gravity driven force that results from elevated position of the ridge o Slab pull – Reults from sinking of a cold dense slab of oceanic lithosphere under  continental crust  


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