Plate Tectonics


Terms to learn:

continental drift       hot spots                                        mid-ocean ridges
Pangaea                         subduction                                     seafloor spreading
Alfred Wegener       divergent plate boundary      transform plate boundary
convergent plate boundary                          


Topic Outline:

  1. Development of plate tectonic theory
    1. Continental drift – Alfred Wegener (1912)
      1. Pangaea 
    2. Seafloor spreading - Harry Hess (early 1960’s)
      1. sea floor age
    3. Plate tectonics
  2. Plate motion
    1. Plates
    2. Plate boundaries
  3. Mantle plumes
    1. Hot spots
      1. plate movement


Fun places to visit:

The story of plate tectonics:

Animations of plate tectonic movement:


When you are finished with this topic, you should be able to answer these study questions:

  1. What is the difference between the lithosphere and the asthenosphere?
  2. What are the differences between continental and oceanic lithosphere?
  3. What are the three types of plate boundaries and the movement associated with each?
  4. What type of plate boundary is found in California?
  5. Why is continental crust so much older than the ocean crust?
  6. Tectonically, how are the Hawaiian Islands different from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska?
  7. What information can a hot spot provide regarding plate movement?