Vous êtes sur la page 1sur 66

Plate Tectonics

Early Hypotheses

Driving Mechanisms

Plate Boundaries

Tectonic Histories

Plate Tectonics
Central unifying concept of Earth Science
Plate tectonics explains:
origin and destruction of ocean basins
origin of continents
distribution of earthquakes and volcanoes.
creation and destruction of mountain belts.
continental drift.

Plate Tectonics
Plate Tectonics: = rigid lithosphere
(plates) moving over ductile
asthenosphere of mantle
The interior and surface of Earth are in
constant motion.

Major lithospheric plates

Continental Drift
The hypothesis that continents are mobile.
Proposed by German meteorologist Alfred Wegener.
The Origins of Oceans and Continents published in 1915.
Wegener hypothesized a former supercontinent, Pangaea.
Idea was founded on strong evidence.
Fit of continents
Rock type and structural similarities
Fossil evidence
Location of glaciations

Wegener noted that continents seem to fit


together and was not coincidental.
Present shorelines make a rough fit.
The continental shelf edges make a better fit.

Alfred Wegener--1930

Pangea

Animation:
Pangaea
(animations will be posted on class website)

Matching Ages and Geologic Features Across


Atlantic

Rock types indicative of


specific climates align in
belts, at appropriate
latitudes, on Pangaea.

coal

salt

sand dune

reef

Evidence of continental drift Climate belts on Pangaea.

ice sheet
subtropical
tropical

Distribution of fossils
Lystrosaurus &
Cynognathus
non-swimming,
land-dwelling
mammal relatives.

Mesosaur--freshwater reptile

Glaciations

Striations

Distribution of
300 million year
old glacial
deposits today.

Glaciated areas

Striations

Glaciated areas

Reconstructed ice
sheet on Pangaea.

Today

Evidence of continental drift Late Paleozoic glacial deposits.

No testable mechanism for why/how


continents drifted

Cnt dritft

Additional Clues from the Ocean Floor


Abyssal
plain

Mid-ocean
ridge
Abyssal
plain

Determining depth
with sonar

Bathymetric map
Abyssal
plain

Mid-ocean
ridge

Abyssal
plain

Profile from North America to Africa.

World War 2: sonar bathometric surveys of ocean floor


Sediment cover quite thin overall--implies ocean floor is young comp. to continents
Thinner sediment near ridges--implies that theyre younger than deep parts of ocean-somehow new ocean floor formed @ ridges

Fig. 2.8a

Fracture zone

Ridge axis

Fracture zone

Other bathymetric features of the ocean floor.

Mariana
Trench

Ridge

Trench

Trenches border chains of volcanoes-Pacific Ring of Fire


Moreover, these
volcanic arcs
are associated
with deep
earthquakes

Another Clue
Global earthquake locations

Sea Floor Spreading


Harry Hess (1960s)
Conducted echo-sounding
surveys in pacific during
WWII
Sea Floor spreading from
mid-ocean ridge

Sea-Floor Spreading
In 1960, Harry Hess proposed sea-floor spreading.
Upwelling mantle erupts at the mid-ocean ridges.
New crust moves away from ridges, gathering
sediment.
At trenches, the sea-floor dives back into the mantle.
Provided a potential mechanism for continental drift.

Sea Floor Spreading--continents not


plowing
through oceanic crust

Clinching evidence for sea-floor spreading (plate tectonics)


came from unexpected source
Towing a magnetometer.

Sea floor

Positive
anomaly

stronger
weaker

Ridge
crest

Negative
anomaly

Detecting anomalies.

Anomalies in the eastern Pacific.

Marine magnetic anomalies (magnetic patterns of sea floor).

VineMatthewsMorley hypothesis

First test of sea-floor spreading hypothesis (1963)


sea floor magnetic anomalies
symmetrical across MORs
match pattern of magnetic reversals discovered previously
in stacked lava flows

Magnetic
field lines.

Magnetic field of a bar magnet.

Magnetic field of the Earth.

Magnetic Polarity--erratic history

As they cool,
lavas record the
magnetic
signature that
prevailed at the
time they formed
(normal or
reversed)

Earths
dipole

Hot lava cannot preserve a


magnetic signal, magnetic
particles are randomly
oriented.
Time

As the lava solidifies,


magnetic particles
align and are frozen
into position.

Normal

Reversed

Normal

Successive layers of lava build at a volcano.

Reversed

The magnetic polarity of


successive layers is different.

Mid-Ocean Ridges--basically linear zones of


volcanoes (generate new ocean crust, 2
pieces at once)

Provides a lengthy recording of polarity history

mid-ocean ridge

Sea floor speading


churns along,
creating a strip of
normally
magnetized crust
(today)--growing
from the middle

Moving forward in
time, reversals
recorded as
alternately
magnetized bands
of oceanic crust

Pattern, mirror
image relative to
the mid-ocean
ridge

mid-ocean ridge

Animation:
Magnetic stripes

Fig. 2.13c

Mid-ocean ridge
Normal polarity
Reversed polarity

TIME
More stripes form as
sea floor spreads.

Forming marine magnetic anomalies 2.

Fig. 2.13d

Mid-ocean
ridge

Negative
anomaly

Positive
anomaly

Earths
field
Brunhes

The width of the stripes is


proportional to the duration
of chrons.

Matuyama
Gauss
Gilbert

Forming marine magnetic anomalies 3.

Magnetic
inclination

Magnetic field lines curve through space.


Inclination is 0 at the equator, and 90 at the
pole.

Magnetic field lines, and magnetic inclination.

0 Ma
0

100
100
200
300

200

400

300

500

600

400

500
600
Paleomagnetic inclination in various rock layers
on a given continent differ, suggesting that either
the magnetic poles have moved, or that the
continent has.

A succession of paleopoles defines


an apparent polar-wander path.

If you assume the pole is fixed,


then the continent must drift.

If you assume the continent is fixed,


then the pole seems to wander.

Interpretation of apparent polar-wander paths.

North
America

Europe

Since the apparent polarwander path for each


continent is different,
continents must be drifting
relative to each other.

Apparent polar-wander paths for different continents.

Africa

Polar Wander
Apparent polar-wander paths align when
continents are re-assembled.

Plate Tectonics
Plate Tectonics = rigid (elastic) lithosphere moving
over ductile (plastic) asthenosphere of mantle
Mantle is transferred to the surface (seafloor
spreading) and then pulled back down
(subduction). The interior and surface of Earth are
in constant motion.

Major lithospheric plates

Lithosphere
Tectonic plates are fragments of lithosphere.
- Lithosphere = crust and uppermost mantle (elastic)
- Plate tectonics = lithosphere in motion over the
asthenosphere.

Lithosphere

elastic

Asthenosphere

plastic

Two Types of Lithosphere


(crust + rigid upper mantle)

Continental ~ 150 km thick


Granitic crust
35-40 km thick
Lighter (density 2.7 gm/cm3)
More buoyant

Oceanic ~ 7 to 100 km thick.


Basaltic crust
7-10 km thick.
Heavier (density 3.3 gm/cm3)
Less buoyant

Plate Tectonics: rigid lithosphere plates moving over


ductile asthenosphere
Most plates have continental & oceanic lithosphere portions

Map of major lithosphere plates

2009 W.W. Norton

Plates interact at their plate boundaries

Divergent

Convergent

Transform
The three types are defined by the relative motion of plates.

The three kinds of plate boundaries.

Divergent tectonic plates move apart


Lithosphere thickens away from the ridge axis

(MOR)

Convergent tectonic plates move together


process of plate consumption is called
subduction.

Transform tectonic plates slide sideways


Plate material is neither created, nor
destroyed

Animation:
Plate boundaries

Driving Mechanisms
Mantle is transferred to the surface
Divergent plate boundaries (MOR)

Lithosphere recycled into Earths interior


Convergent plate boundaries (subduction zone)

Subduction is balanced by spreading at MOR

Driving Mechanisms
What drives plate motion?
Two hypotheses:
Convection of the non-rigid mantle
Gravitational forces acting on the plates

Mantle convection
Convection cells within the mantle drag lithospheric plates
Hot rock rises at MOR
Cold rock sinks at subduction zone
Mantle flow moves the overlaying plates

Evidence suggests that mantle convection does occur

HOWEVER:
3-D plate motions are too complex for simple convection
cells to be the only driving mechanism of plate tectonics
Mantle convective flow directions do not always define direction of local
plate motions

Gravitational forces
Forces exerted on plate by gravity drives motion
Mantle convection not only driving mechanism, but may
contribute to motion caused by gravity acting on the plate

Gravitational forces
Ridge-push
Thin lithosphere elevates MOR
Gravity pushes adjacent
lithosphere away from MOR

Slab-pull
Lithosphere thickens away
from MOR
Gravity pulls old, dense slab
downward into asthenosphere,
drags rest of plate with it

Sloping margin
of the ridge

Mid-ocean
ridge
Abyssal plain

Ridge push
Water

The elevated lithosphere at a ridge pushes outward.

Ridge-push force.

2009 W.W. Norton

Honey

Volcanic arc

Accretionary
prism

Trench

Water

Sinking slab

Slab
pull

Rock

A sinking anchor pulls down the line.

Slab-pull force.

2009 W.W. Norton

Sinking oceanic lithosphere pulls more lithosphere with it.

Earths surface is constantly changing

Plate Tectonics Summary: Ocean floor created at mid-ocean ridges


is consumed at oceanic trenches.