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Plate tectonics is an earth sciences topic that attracts a good deal of interest, given...
Plate tectonics is an earth sciences topic that attracts a good deal of interest, given that it a topic very often featured in popular science programmes on TV and radio. It is a subject that have strong visual appeal. The coverage is self-contained, up to date and is written in a way that will be accessible to those with interest and motivation, all the more so for those who have some pre-existing scientific understanding.
After studying this unit you should be able to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of:
- the theory of tectonic plates and the different forms of evidence (e.g. palaeontology, palaeomagnetism, continuity of structures etc.) that can be used to understand the movement of the lithospheric plates over geological time;
- the mechanisms of crustal growth and transfer of heat at spreading ocean ridges;
- the three main types of plate boundary (constructive, destructive and conservative) and how they interact at triple junctions;
- the difference between relative and true plate motion;
- the driving and retarding forces that influence plate motion at constructive, destructive and conservative plate boundaries.
- Current section: Introduction
- Learning outcomes
- 1 Preamble: the moving Earth
- 2 From continental drift to plate tectonics
- 2.1 Continental drift
- 2.2 Evidence for continental drift
- 2.3 Sea-floor spreading
- 3 The theory of plate tectonics
- 3.1 Assumptions
- 3.2 Heat flow within plates
- 3.3 Constructive plate boundaries
- 3.4 Destructive plate boundaries
- 3.5 Destructive plate boundaries, continued: ocean-ocean (island-arc) subduction
- 3.6 Destructive plate boundaries, continued: ocean-continent (Andean type) subduction
- 3.7 Destructive plate boundaries, continued: continent-continent destructive boundaries
- 3.8 Conservative plate boundaries and transform faults
- 3.9 Triple junctions
- 4 Plate tectonic motion
- 5 Plate driving forces
- 5.1 Why do plates move?
- 5.2 Forces acting upon lithospheric plates
- 5.6 Implications of plate tectonics
- 5.7 Summary
- 5.8 Further reading
In this unit, you will examine how the evidence for the movement of continents was gathered and how this movement relates to, and generates, geological features and phenomena such as ocean basins, mountain ranges, volcanoes and earthquakes. You will learn how and why the continents have moved, and continue to move, and the forces that drive them around our globe.
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This unit is an adapted extract from the Open University course
This is an extract from an Open University course which is no longer available to new students. If you found this interesting you could explore more free Geology course units or view the range of currently available OU Geology courses.