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The theories which describes

the dynamism of the earth
• Isostacy theory
• Continental drifting theory
• Plate tectonic theory
• The theory of sea(ocean) -floor
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The isostacy theory
• The word isostacy is a Greek word means
“equal standing”.
• The theory postulates that “ the continents and
their major features are maintained in a sort of
equilibrium; whereby the large portions of the
Earth’s crust are floating on a denser underlying
layer called mantle”

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• Thus the areas of less dense rock rise topographically as
continents and mountains, their movement is
compensated for by a similar downwards penetration of
this less dense rock into sima.
• Hence the lithosphere has highland and lowland due to the
variation in density of the materials and gravity, so lowland
have denser materials than highland.
• Regardless the density variation, the Earth maintain its
balance, any disturbance on the earth’s crust cause
movement of the molten materials(Asthenosphere) in a
mantle to different direction for the sake of bringing back

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The concept of Sir George Airy (hypothesis proposed
in 1855)
 According to Airy, the inner parts of the mountains are not
hollow; rather the excess weight is compensated by the lighter
materials below.
 According to him the crust of relatively lighter material is floating
in the substratum of dense material.
 Therefore, the continents which are made of lighter sial are
floating over the sub-stratum which is built of the denser sima.
 Thus, Himalaya is also floating in the denser glassy magma.
 He suggested that the lighter sial of the Himalaya is floating over
the denser material of sima lying underneath.
 Not only this, but the Himalaya is floating in the denser magma
with their maximum portion sunk in magma in the same way as a
boat floats in water with its maximum parts sunk in the water.

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• The movement are of two types;
• Vertical and Lateral movement
• Vertical movement involves upward and downward,
hence it cause either uplift or sagging of the earth’s crust
• Highland are center of denudation while lowland is the
center of aggregation.
• Thus when the highlands are worn down there occurs
land uplift as a result of upward movement of mantle
materials caused by reduction in weight on the earth’s
• As well as when ice melt leads to crust uplift because of
reduction in weight while forming deposition on low
part of the continents.
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Evidence of Isostatic movement
The depression of the crust in the northern
part of America and Europe was due to the
weight of ice sheets of vast thickness during
the ice age.
The slowly rising of crust due to ice sheet
melting, in the former beaches that occur
around the coast of Scandinavia. Now lie
from 8m to 30m above the present day
Submergence of forests on the shores of
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 The continental shelf around Antarctica is covered by water to a
depth of about 750m compared with 180m around the
 Presence of rias and estuaries between coastal lands of gambia
and sierra-leone.
 A ria is a coastal inlet formed by the partial submergence of an
unglaciated river valley. It is a drowned river valley that remains
open to the sea. Typically, rias have a dendritic, treelike outline
although they can be straight and without significant branches.

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An estuary is a partially enclosed coastal body
of brackish water with one or more rivers or
streams flowing into it, and with a free
connection to the open sea.

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Effects of isostatic movement
 formation of faulting leading to the formation of Grabens, Horsts and
tilted block.
 creation of folding leading to the formation of various folds as well as
fold mountain.
 formation of Earthquakes with the associated effects like faulting
subsidence and uplift.
 Volcanic eruption forming different volcanic features(volcanoes).

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Critique/challenges of the theory

 The theory failed to explain the formation of depositional

features which are seen to appear above the sea water level.
 The theory has more generalized that is it has over looked. It has
not pointed out which mountains have roots.
 Is it true that, all mountains maintain their heights in the same
way as postulated by theory ? Consider the case of residual
mountains which have been formed by denudation.

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Importance of isostacy theory
 It provide an understanding on the dynamic state of the
earth’s crust, that the Earth’s crust is not static it is dynamic
as it tends to balance itself after some disturbance and the
influence of gravitational force.
 It paves a way to understand theories such as plate
tectonic and continental drift, through the idea that crust
floats like ice berg on the ocean.
 It helps understanding of how various landforms were
formed e.g fold mountain and garbens.
 It enhance human being to take precaution depending the
nature of the phenomena at his localities. E.g volcano
 It gives basis for predicting the future of the crustal state at
any particular place on the earth’s surface.
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