Ridge Push: Definition & Overview

Ridge Push: Definition & Overview
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  • 0:02 A Review of Plate Tectonics
  • 1:22 The Basics of Ridge-Push
  • 2:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amy Lange

Amy has taught university-level earth science courses and has a PhD in Geology.

In this lesson, we'll discuss ridge-push, which is one of the driving forces behind tectonic plate motions. We will also introduce the concept of volcanism at mid-ocean ridges.

A Review of Plate Tectonics

According to the theory of plate tectonics, the Earth's crust is made up of several rigid plates. Because the mantle beneath these plates is partially molten, the plates are free to move, much like pieces of ice on top of a lake. Ever since this theory was developed in the 1960s, researchers have been working to understand the driving forces behind plate motions.

An initial model for understanding plate motion was that they were driven by convection cells. The Earth's mantle compromises approximately 80% of the Earth's volume. The mantle is thought to be not completely solid, which allows it to convect. Hot rock near the core will rise within the mantle due to its lower density. As the rock becomes farther from the core's heat, the rock cools and becomes denser. This higher density rock sinks back toward the Earth's core, where the convection process starts over.

Earlier researchers thought that this process was responsible for pulling the crust away from divergent plate boundaries and colliding at convergent plate boundaries. In this model, the plates passively ride on top of the convecting mantle, much like scum floating on top of a pond. However, new models suggest that the plates are more active participants than previously believed. This lesson delves into one of these forces acting on a plate, ridge-push.

The Basics of Ridge-Push

The Earth's longest continuous mountain chain is one of the most difficult-to-see and remote features on Earth. Connected systems of mid-ocean ridges wind along the seafloor for a length of 60,000 km. Mid-ocean ridges are divergent plate boundaries where tectonic plates are pulling away from each other.

Not only are mid-ocean ridges one of the most extensive features on Earth, they are also the most volcanically active on Earth as well. Magma produced at mid-ocean ridges accounts for about 75% of the magma produced in any given year.

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