Real Life Application: Climate in North America
Consider climatic conditions that exist near Earth's equator today. Using a paper map, draw a line from San Francisco through the north shore of Lake Superior. This represents the equator when North America was part of Pangaea.
1. What climatic conditions existed during this time?
2. What covered much of what is now the western U.S?
3. What types of fossils would you expect to find here?
Print map below to complete assignment.
E.SE.06.51 Explain plate tectonic movement and that the lithospheric plates move centimeters each year.
E.SE.06.52 Demonstrate how major geological events (earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, mountain building) result from these plate motions.
Tectonic Plates, Earthquakes, and Volcanoes
According to theory of plate tectonics, Earth is an active planet — its surface is composed of many individual plates that move and interact, constantly changing and reshaping Earth's outer layer. Volcanoes and earthquakes both result from the movement of tectonic plates. In this interactive activity produced for Teachers' Domain with images from NASA, see the relationship between earthquakes and volcanoes and the boundaries of tectonic plates.
Mountain Maker, Earth Shaker
The theory of plate tectonics has come a long way since Alfred Wegener first proposed his theory of continental drift. Geologists now have strong evidence to show not only that tectonic plates have moved and are continuing to move, but also to describe what happens when they meet. This interactive activity illustrates what happens at the three types of boundaries where plates meet.
Tectonic Plates and Boundaries
Continents were once thought to be static — locked tight in their positions in Earth's crust. Similarities between distant coastlines, such as those on opposite sides of the Atlantic, were thought to be the work of a scientist's overactive imagination, or, if real, the result of erosion on a massive scale. This interactive activity shows the position of Earth's continents on 11 massive tectonic plates and illustrates the motion of these plates relative to one another.
Plate Tectonics: An Introduction
In the early 1900s, most geologists thought that Earth's appearance, including the arrangement of the continents, had changed little since its formation. This video segment describes the impact the theory of plate tectonics has had on our understanding of Earth's geological history, as we have become aware of our planet's ever-changing nature.
Plate Tectonics: The Scientist Behind the Theory
Some of the most influential theories began as seemingly implausible notions. This is not to say that the scientific community embraces every new idea that comes along. Alfred Wegener, the scientist who first proposed the theory of continental drift, learned that the hard way. This video segment chronicles the unveiling of Wegener's theory and shows how compelling evidence is sometimes dismissed when it supports new or incomplete theories.
Plate Tectonics: Further Evidence
Early evidence showing striking similarities between regions on opposite sides of vast oceans suggested that in Earth's distant past what are now separate continents may once have been connected. However, this evidence said nothing about how the continents could have moved to their present positions. This video segment describes the search for evidence of a mechanism and forces that could propel tectonic plates across Earth's surface.
Plate Tectonics: Lake Mead, Nevada
Contrary to what most geologists thought less than 100 years ago, we live on a dynamic planet. Earth's surface has changed in countless ways during the 4.6 billion years since it formed, and it continues to change today. This video segment looks at some of the geologic processes that have shaped the landscape near Lake Mead, Nevada, and suggests that these processes may be causing North America to slowly break apart.
Plate Tectonics: The Hawaiian Archipelago
Given that all of the Hawaiian Islands were created by volcanic activity, it is somewhat surprising that only one of the islands possesses any active volcanoes. Why did the volcanoes that built the other islands stop erupting and why are those on the big island still active? This video segment describes the role of a relatively rare phenomenon, known as a hot spot, in the formation of these majestic islands.