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Plate Tectonics - Research Paper Example

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According to plate tectonics geological concept, Earth's lithosphere consists of plates that are in motion with respect to one another. The motion of continents, called continental drift, occurs with the movement of the lithospheric plates. Conceptual development of contemporary plate tectonics theory came as a result of scientific debate between advocates of stationary continents theory and theory of continental drift…
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Plate Tectonics
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Download file to see previous pages is composed of plates that are in motion with respect to one another and that the majority of the deformation associated with this motion is concentrated along the plate boundaries (Fichter, 2000). Back in 1968, Morgain provided an explanation that plate tectonics constitutes "a kinematic model which describes the relative motion between the rigid plates that make up the outer shell of Earth" (Morgan, 73). Practically, the relative motion between the plates is accommodated by seafloor spreading and the creation of new plates at ocean ridges, subduction of the surface plate at ocean trenches, and strike-slip motion at transform faults which allows plate motion without creating or removing surface plates. The motion of the continents is facilitated by the movement of the lithospheric plates, and this transport of the continents is referred to as continental drift. Plate tectonics on Earth has been determined to have been in operation for at least two billion years and may well have been in operation much earlier (Cawood et al., 5).
theory, with its collisional orogenies and other episodic events, was in some wise dependent or interdependent upon "new catastrophism." That is, though plate tectonics largely relies upon uniformitarianism as a basis of understanding plate motion and subsurface processes, it nevertheless proffers catastrophes and other episodic events that proceed at rates greater than those existing between events. Examples include mountain building, various volcanic processes, and sea-level change resulting from mid-oceanic ridge formation. Between 1908 and 1912, Frank B. Taylor, American geologist, and Alfred Wegener, a German meteorologist and astronomer, working independently, proposed the idea that the continents were not fixed on the surface of the Earth but were slowly moving about. One point of Taylor's argument was that continental drift was needed to account for the folding and compression of the Alps and the Himalayas. Wegener was more influenced by the rough parallelism between the opposing shores of the Atlantic and by evidence of climatic changes through geological time. Later Wegener proposed that all the Earth's land area was at one time "united in a single primordial supercontinent, which he named Pangaea, from Greek meaning 'all land" (Hallam, 93). The continents had shifted, becoming increasingly separated through millions of years. He believed that the continent were made up of light-weight granitic rocks, which like giant ships driven through the heavier basaltic seas (Hallam, 95). Wegener looked upon the continents as flexible masses instead of rigid plates. Some of his work was in error, for example, the amount of time involved in continental drift.
Alfred Wegener established a tradition in geology and geophysics, according to which further development of theory of plate tectonics has been formed within the scientific debate over the ideas of stationary continents and continental drift. For instance, Hallam commented that "interpretation of how science ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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