Plate Tectonics Essay - Essay Prowess

Plate Tectonics Essay


Plate Tectonics Essay

From the emergence and refinement of plate tectonics theory, which was formulated about 30 years ago, we better understand how plate-tectonic processes have shaped our planet. Plate tectonics theory has revolutionized our understanding of the dynamics of our planets. The theory has allowed the earth’s study by drawing to the many earth science branches. According to USGS (2016), the plate tectonics theory states that the earth is made of plates that are in constant motion relative to each other. It also maintains that the earth’s inner layer is made of hot fragmented plates that move relative to each other as they ride over the more mobile and hotter core. Plate tectonics take place two plates move towards each other, leading to mountain ranges or moving towards each other, leading to the formation of divergent boundaries.

According to Deserno (2011), volcanoes are a very important part of our planet as they play a significant role in shaping our planet. The earth was formed more than 4 billion years ago due to the collision of rocks. The merging of high-speed hot rocks cooled on the surface as the interior retained most of the heat. Deserno (2011) asserts that the center of the earth is as hot as the sun’s surface.

Deserno (2011) asserts that plate tectonics led to splitting the earth’s surface into seven vast parts known as plates. The parts were so enormous that they could carry the weight of continents event extending under the ocean.

The masses of plates were initially joined together, but due to the enormous forces of molten rocks beneath them, the land was split apart. The rocks spread sideways into directions near the surface, as it begins to lose heat. The rocks at the surface cooled at a faster rate than the interior rocks, eventually sinking. The earth’s crust is gradually dragged apart through the sliding process, causing the landmasses to move.

Figure 1: Illustration showing convention movement in the mantle leading to formation of ridges and trenches

According to Deserno (2011), around 250 million years ago, our planet was unrecognizable. The earth existed as a single supercontinent known as Pangaea. This supercontinent then separated into two huge continental landmasses known as Laurasia in the North, and the Gondwanaland, in the south. As the plates moved, the two supercontinents broke up, leading to new continents and oceans. The process continues over millions of years, leading to continents and seas’ formation as we know them today. However, the plates are in constant motion due to the huge amount of heat underneath. Thus, there is a possibility that our continent may be reunited with another giant supercontinent in the future.

Figure 2: Diagrams showing the formation periods of Plate Tectonics leading to the formation of present day continents.

The collisions of plates are responsible for the formation of mountain ranges on the planet. Examples of ranges formed due to continental collision are the Southern Alps in New Zealand. Millions of years ago, the Collison of the pacific and the Australian plate led to New Zealand’s creation. As plates move towards each other and collided, there was buckling leading to the formation of mountains. New Zealand formed through this process approximately 5 million years ago. The South American Andes, the European Alps, the Central Asian Himalayas are some of the relatively young mountain ranges formed due to collision between plates.

Figure 3: diagram showing the convergence of two continental plates leading to formation of mountain ranges.

The other form of plate movement is when plates move away from each other, leading to divergent boundaries. During this process, there is a new crust as magma forced its way from the mantle. The mid-Atlantic ridge is an example of a divergent boundary, a submerged ridge that extends from the southern tip of Africa to the Arctic Ocean (USGS, 2016).

Figure 4: Illustration showing plates diverging from each other

Earthquakes are as a result of plate movement. When plates push against each other and get stuck, they take place, leading to stress build-up that is eventually released in the form of an earthquake. The Himalayas is one of the regions that has experienced an earthquake in the current decade that had devastating effects in Pakistan.

Geological forces have played a significant role in shaping our world with huge mountain ranges and earthquakes. The movement of plates has enabled the creation of waterways and gorges. The gorges have played a part in transporting water from the mountains to the oceans, ensuring that our planet does not become waterlogged.

The volcanoes and the ocean are important as they help in temperature and carbon dioxide regulation within the earth’s surface. The oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere used by the planktons for photosynthesis and make their shells. When they die, they are deposited at the bottom of the sea, forming rocks enabling the removal of the huge amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When the plates in the earth’s crust collide, the seabed bedrock containing carbon from plankton shells is carried deep into the earth in a subduction process. As the layer descends into the earth’s hot inner surface, it is heated, melts, and release carbon dioxide, which is released back into the atmosphere during an eruption enabling balancing of carbon dioxide. Subduction volcanoes are highly explosive as they contain a huge amount of gas, which is crucial to atmospheric live survival.


Deserno, C. (2011, July 19). Earth: The Biography Part 01. Volcanoes – Video Dailymotion. Retrieved from

USGS. (2016, November 30). This Dynamic Earth: The Story of Plate Tectonics. Retrieved from

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