What is a tectonic plate and what do they do?

From the deepest ocean trench to the tallest mountain, plate tectonics explains the features and movement of Earth's surface in the present and the past. Plate tectonics is the theory that Earth's outer shell is divided into several plates that glide over the mantle, the rocky inner layer above the core.
A.

Why do Earth's tectonic plates move?

This process is called continental drift. The plates move because of convection currents in the Earth's mantle. These are driven by the heat produced by the decay of radioactive elements and heat left over from the formation of the Earth.
  • Where do most of the world's earthquakes occur?

    Earthquakes occur all the time all over the world, both along plate edges and along faults. Most earthquakes occur along the edge of the oceanic and continental plates. The earth's crust (the outer layer of the planet) is made up of several pieces, called plates.
  • What happens at a convergent plate boundary?

    Convergent Plate Boundary - Oceanic and Continental Plates. When continental and oceanic plates collide, the thinner and more dense oceanic plate is overridden by the thicker and less dense continental plate. The oceanic plate is forced down into the mantle in a process known as "subduction."
  • How does plate tectonics work?

    From the deepest ocean trench to the tallest mountain, plate tectonics explains the features and movement of Earth's surface in the present and the past. Plate tectonics is the theory that Earth's outer shell is divided into several plates that glide over the mantle, the rocky inner layer above the core.
B.

What drives the movement of the tectonic plates?

These continents are still on the move today. Exactly what drives plate tectonics is not known. One theory is that convection within the Earth's mantle pushes the plates, in much the same way that air heated by your body rises upward and is deflected sideways when it reaches the ceiling.
  • What is the theory of plate tectonics?

    Plate tectonics is the theory that the outer rigid layer of the earth (the lithosphere) is divided into a couple of dozen "plates" that move around across the earth's surface relative to each other, like slabs of ice on a lake.
  • What happens when the Earth's plates move?

    When the edges of plates meet, four things can happen: Even though plates move very slowly, their motion, called plate tectonics, has a huge impact on the Earth. Plate tectonics form the oceans, continents, and mountains. It also helps us understand why and where events like earthquakes occur and volcanoes erupt.
  • What is it called when one tectonic plate pushes under another?

    Subduction is a geological process that takes place at convergent boundaries of tectonic plates where one plate moves under another and is forced or sinks due to gravity into the mantle. Regions where this process occurs are known as subduction zones.

Updated: 28th October 2019

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