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Ch 5: Plate Tectonics

About This Chapter

Watch online video lessons to learn about the lithosphere, plate boundaries, sea floor spreading and more. Each lesson is accompanied by a short multiple-choice quiz you can use to check your understanding of these plate tectonics concepts.

Plate Tectonics - Chapter Summary and Learning Objectives

Have you ever looked at a world map and thought how the continents look like they could all fit together like puzzle pieces? Well, if you have, then you're not alone. There is actually an area of science devoted to the idea that there used to be one huge continent, called Pangaea. The ideas about what happened to break Pangaea up usually center around the ideas of plate tectonics and continental drift. As you will learn in this chapter, a man named Alfred Wegener popularized his theory of continental drift. There is quite a bit of evidence supporting this idea. Plate tectonics is a related theory about how the continents drift. You will get to learn about these ideas and related concepts, such as:

  • Major lithosphere plates
  • Causes of plate movement
  • The evidence revealed through ocean drilling
  • Paleomagnetism
  • Sea floor spreading
  • Polar reversal

VideoObjective
What Is Pangaea? - Theory, Definition & Quiz Study Pangaea to get a good idea what it was and how it relates to the theories of how the different continents were formed.
Plate Tectonics: A Unified Theory for Change of the Earth's Surface Explore plate tectonics.
Alfred Wegener's Theory of Continental Drift Take an in-depth look into Wegener's theory.
Evidence for the Mechanism of Continental Drift Examine various evidence that supports the theory of continental drift.
Major Plates of the Lithosphere: Earth's Tectonic Plates Explore the earth's tectonic plates.
Causes of Tectonic Plate Movement Analyze the reasons why plates move.
Plate Boundaries: Convergent, Divergent and Transform Boundaries Find out about plate boundaries.
Ocean Drilling as Evidence for Plate Tectonics Find out what ocean drilling has revealed about plate tectonics.
Paleomagnetism and Hot Spot: Evidence for Plate Tectonics Learn about evidence supporting the theory of plate tectonics.
Sea Floor Spreading and Polar Reversal See what sea floor spreading and polar reversal tell us about continent movement.

10 Lessons in Chapter 5: Plate Tectonics
What is Pangaea? - Theory & Definition

1. What is Pangaea? - Theory & Definition

The continents you know have existed for a long time, but not in their current locations. In fact, over 200 million years ago Pangaea broke apart by plate tectonic movement to form the continents we see today.

Plate Tectonics: A Unified Theory for Change of the Earth's Surface

2. Plate Tectonics: A Unified Theory for Change of the Earth's Surface

After many years of trying to solve the mystery of the moving continents, enough data and evidence was collected to develop a unifying theory of how the surface of the earth changes. It's called plate tectonics.

Alfred Wegener's Theory of Continental Drift

3. Alfred Wegener's Theory of Continental Drift

People used to think that Earth was static, and that it never changed. Gradually, a body of evidence was gathered that made no sense in this model. Alfred Wegener, Geologic Supersleuth, laid the groundwork for a whole new theory for the large-scale changing nature of the earth.

Evidence for the Mechanism of Continental Drift

4. Evidence for the Mechanism of Continental Drift

As scientists began to explore the ocean floor after World War II, they discovered many new clues to help them solve a mystery that had begun decades earlier - how the continents moved about on the surface of the earth.

Major Plates of the Lithosphere: Earth's Tectonic Plates

5. Major Plates of the Lithosphere: Earth's Tectonic Plates

The outer shell of the earth, the lithosphere, is broken up into tectonic plates. The seven major plates are the African plate, Antarctic plate, Eurasian plate, Indo-Australian plate, North American plate, Pacific plate and South American plate.

Causes of Tectonic Plate Movement

6. Causes of Tectonic Plate Movement

In this lesson, we explore the causes of plate movement, including thermal convection, ridge push and slab pull. Students will learn how these processes complement each other and form a theory for tectonic plate movement.

Plate Boundaries: Convergent, Divergent, and Transform Boundaries

7. Plate Boundaries: Convergent, Divergent, and Transform Boundaries

In the theory of plate tectonics, the earth's crust is broken into plates that move around relative to each other. As a result of this movement, three types of plate boundaries are formed: divergent, convergent, and transform boundaries.

Ocean Drilling as Evidence for Plate Tectonics

8. Ocean Drilling as Evidence for Plate Tectonics

The Deep Sea Drilling Project extracted samples of the ocean floor that provided evidence to support the hypothesis of seafloor spreading and the theory of plate tectonics. Learn how these samples provided proof.

Paleomagnetism and Hot Spots: Evidence for Plate Tectonics

9. Paleomagnetism and Hot Spots: Evidence for Plate Tectonics

Paleomagnetism is the study of past magnetic fields. Hot spots are fixed pockets of heat that well up to form volcanic features. Learn how paleomagnetism and the study of hot spots provide evidence that supports the theory of plate tectonics.

Sea Floor Spreading and Polar Reversal

10. Sea Floor Spreading and Polar Reversal

Sea floor spreading is the process by which new oceanic crust is formed by the upwelling of magma through diverging tectonic plates. Learn about the relationship between sea floor spreading and polar reversals detected on the ocean floor.

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