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L7; Plate Tectonics Chap. 2 p.


CANADIAN HISTORY J. Tuzo Wilson (1908 1993): Canadian geophysicist, father of "plate tectonics", visionary scientist and educator DIFFERENTIATION OF THE EARTH Earth is differentiated into layers based on density and physical properties & strength - Crust: 5 to 30km - Mantle: 2900 km - Core: 3461 km DENSITY MODEL Thin crust rich in silicon and oxygen Magnesium- and iron-rich mantle Iron-rich metallic core ISOSTASY: Buoyancy principle Low-density continents float on top of the denser mantle PLATE TECTONICS MODEL Rigid lithosphere - Crust and upper mantle Plastic asthenosphere - Upper mantles - Convection currents - More viscous than asthenosphere - Slower convection Liquid outer core Solid inner core CONVECTION: Heat transfer by fluid flow LITHOSPHERE AND ASTHENOSPHERE Low-density and rigid lithosphere floats on top of the dense and plastic asthenosphere - Boundary at a depth of 100 km HISTORY OF PLATE TECTONICS - Early hypotheses Aristotle (384-322 BC) - Earthquakes created by underground air escaping explosively after being heated by central fires Kircher, Athanasius (German scholar, 1602-1680) - Had witnessed active volcanoes in Italy - Drew an early cross-section of the Earth - Subterranean reservoirs of fire inflame volcanoes around the globe CATASTROPHISM 17th-18th centuries Theory stating that the Earths landscape is shaped primarily by great catastrophes - Based on Christian religious teaching - Earth has been created in 4004 BC Required violent change to produce topographic features in only 6000 years UNIFORMITARIANISM James Hutton (1726 1797) The Earths slow natural processes operate with the same intensity and under the same set of physical constraints now as in the geologic past - What happened in the past will happen in the future - The present is the key to the past (Sir Archibald Geike 1835-1924)

AT THE END OF THE 19TH CENTURY Earths internal structure understood - The Earth radiates heat - Lord Kelvin estimated the cooling rate and calculated that the Earth is 20-100 Ma old Basic geology of continents known - Continents assumed to be fixed - Earth assumed to be as rigid as steel Radioactivity discovered but not geochronology ROCK CYCLE The rock cycle describes processes by which older rocks are made into new rocks Theoretical concept predating plate tectonics The rock cycle fails to explain the processes on the surface of the earth - Why are continents and oceans different? - How do mountains form? - Why do you find same fossil plants on several continents? ALFRED WEGENER (1880-1930) German meteorologist and Arctic explorer Put forward the theory of "continental drift" - Published "The Origin of the Continents and the Oceans" (1915, five editions to 1929) - Hypothesis largely correct but with incorrect details - Rejected by the European scientific community - Embraced by Southern hemisphere geologists WEGENERS CONTINENTAL DRIFT 1.Longitudinal shift between 2 positions on 2 continents over time 2.Jigsaw fit of continental margins 3.Same fossils found on widely separated continents 4.Geological features on fitted continents match 5.Ancient glacial events found in tropical continents CONTINENTAL DRIFT: MAIN PROBLEM Inability to provide a mechanism capable of moving continents across the globe - Wegener suggested that the low-density continents had moved laterally through the denser mantle - Continents plowing through oceans? Mechanically impossibility! Oceanic plates not accounted for Breakthrough came from ocean floor studies following WWII technological advances: sonar, magnetometer, Gravimeter PLATE TECTONICS: WILSON Many geologists have maintained that movements of the Earths crust are concentrated in mobile belts, which may take the form of mountains, mid-ocean ridges or major faults this article suggests that these features are not isolated, that few come to dead ends, but that they are connected into a continuous network of mobile belts about the Earth which divide the surface into several large rigid plates. Other major contributions: - "Hot spot" hypothesis (1963) The Hawaiian and other volcanic island chains may have formed due to the movement of a plate over a stationary "hotspot" in the mantle - Transform faults (1965) Transform faults offset the crust horizontally, without creating or destroying crust PLATE TECTONICS Continents move laterally, as part of thicker, rigid lithospheric slabs that slide along a plastic asthenosphere - Lithosphere: continental and oceanic crust and rigid upper mantle - Asthenosphere: convecting upper mantle Convection in the asthenosphere is the basic driving force

PLATE TECTONICS Evidence - Ocean studies: magnetization patterns on the sea floors; age of ocean basins; bathymetry, study of ocean floors - Earthquakes - Continental drift EARTHS INTERNAL MAGNETIC FIELD Magnetic lines of force: theoretical representation of the force acting on a small magnet Earths internal magnetic field resembles that of a bar magnet - Equator: horizontal lines of force; parallel to surface - Magnetic poles: vertical lines of force; pointing in at the North magnetic pole GEOMAGNETISM Earths internal magnetic field not constant through time - Polar wandering The poles reverse polarity every few 0.1 Ma!! Proof of magnetic field reversal As lava cools, magnetic minerals align in the direction of the Earths magnetic field - Record magnetic polarity at the time of cooling SEAFLOOR SPREADING Magnetic records of the sea floor are studied - Seafloor surveys (19501960) - revealed patterns of normal and reversely magnetized crust Symmetrical stripes interpreted to result from the creation of new ocean floor at mid-ocean ridges BATHYMETRY Bathymetry: study of underwater depth in a body of water Detection of underwater artifacts Mid-ocean ridges - Shallow above mid-ocean ridges - Asthenospheric budge Gradually deeper away from ridges - Rocks increase in density as they cool - Isostatic down warping due to sediment accumulation Question We now know new crust/lithosphere is constantly being created on the seafloor To maintain equilibrium, what does this mean? Answer The crust/lithosphere must also be destroyed to maintain equilibrium Lithosphere recycled into mantle at convergent margins OCEANIC SUBDUCTION ZONES Oceanic lithosphere gets older, colder, denser with time, eventually dense enough to sink into mantle EARTHQUAKES SUPPORT SUBDUCTION: Hypocenter distribution Hypocenter: point of origin of an earthquake in the subsurface - Relation between hypocenter location and the subduction process - Shallow earthquakes in the overriding and subducting plates - Intermediate and deep earthquakes in the subducting plate - No earthquake below 600 km - Material not rigid enough EARTHQUAKES Epicenter: point on the Earths surface directly above the hypocenter Epicenter locations outline plate boundaries

SUBDUCTION ZONES Subduction: process of one lithospheric plate descending beneath another Light plate: overriding plate Denser plate: subducting plate - Pulled down by gravity - Average angle at which oceanic lithosphere descends into the mantle is 45 - Surface expression is an ocean trench - Gradually melts into the asthenosphere CONTINENTAL CONVERGENCE Compression Low-density continental crust cannot subduct - Thickening of the crust, mountain building TRANSFORM MARGINS Crustal blocks slide past each other No crust created and no crust destroyed SUMMARY OF PLATE BOUNDARIES

CURRENT THEORY: TECTONIC CYCLE Tectonic: related to the deformation forces acting on the Earths lithosphere and responsible for the creation of mountain ranges and faults - In Ancient Greece, a builder was called a "tekton" A tectonic cycle is an episode of large-scale deformation of the Earths surface One cycle 250 Ma Conveyor belt model - Melted asthenosphere Flows upwards by convection Cools to form new lithosphere along mid-ocean ridges New oceanic crust created at a rate of 2-10 cm/year New lithosphere moves away laterally - Lighter continental crust moves as on a conveyor belt

OUR TECTONIC WORLD Circum-Pacific belt Mediterranean Sea and trans-Asiatic belt - Largest plate: Pacific plate - 15% of earthquakes - 80% of earthquakes Largest continent-continent collision: Himalayas - 75% of active and dormant volcanoes NORTH AMERICAN PLATE Eastern boundary: - Sea floor spreading along the mid-Atlantic ridge Western boundary: -North: Subduction of the Juan de Fuca plate under the North American plate - South: North American plate and Pacific plate moving along side each other San Andrea transform fault TECTONIC ENVIRONMENTS Four tectonic environments: 1.Spreading centers 2.Transform faults 3.Convergent zones - Subduction zones - Continent-continent collision zones 4.Hot spots SPREADING CENTERS Spreading center: An elongated region where two plates are being pulled away from each other - Stress regime: tension New crust is formed as molten rock is forced upward into the gap TRANSFORM FAULTS Transform fault: Fault that accommodates horizontal movement of tectonic plates against each other (J. Tuzo Wilson, 1965) - No material created nor consumed - Stress regime: shear CONVERGENT ZONES Convergent zone: Region where two tectonic plates collide Stress regime: compression Type depends on the type of lithosphere in the plates that are colliding -Where a dense oceanic plate collides with a less-dense oceanic or continental plate subduction zone -Where two continental plates collide, plates crumple and compress continent-continent collision zone HOT SPOTS Hot spots: plumes of slowly rising mantle rocks that create volcanism on the Earths surface Deep seated - Originate in the mesosphere - Pass through the lithosphere as magma - Supply an active volcano Source? Need a zone with temperature contrast to produce upwelling plume: 1.Core-mantle boundary 2.Other density boundaries in upper mantle that might also be convection boundaries Question What are the important differences between Wegeners Theory of Continental Drift and the modern Theory of Plate Tectonics? 1.Wegener: Continents are drifting (Plate tectonics: Continental and oceanic plates are in motion ) 2.Wegener: Could not identify driving force (Plate tectonics: Convection in mantel brings new crust to the seafloor )

OTHER DRIVING MECHANISMS Slab Pull (primary) - Descending slab old, cold, dense, pulls rest of lithospheric plate behind it Opposed by viscous drag in mantle Clear relationship between rate of plate motion and length of subduction margin Ridge Push (secondary) Lithosphere thickens away from ridge Ridge topography supported by low-density asthenosphere, pushes out on lithosphere Gravity pulls young lithosphere down at ridge