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Plate tectonics

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Author Topic: Plate tectonics  (Read 1265 times)
Rebecca
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« on: May 16, 2007, 07:12:29 am »

Driving forces of plate motion

Plates are able to move because of the relative density of oceanic lithosphere and the relative weakness of the asthenosphere. Dissipation of heat from the mantle is acknowledged to be the original source of energy driving plate tectonics, but it is no longer thought that the plates ride passively on asthenospheric convection currents. Instead, it is accepted that the excess density of the oceanic lithosphere sinking in subduction zones drives plate motions. When it forms at mid-ocean ridges, the oceanic lithosphere is initially less dense than the underlying asthenosphere, but it becomes more dense with age, as it conductively cools and thickens. The greater density of old lithosphere relative to the underlying asthenosphere allows it to sink into the deep mantle at subduction zones, providing most of the driving force for plate motions. The weakness of the asthenosphere allows the tectonic plates to move easily towards a subduction zone.

Two and three-dimensional imaging of the Earth's interior (seismic tomography) shows that there is a laterally heterogeneous density distribution throughout the mantle. Such density variations can be material (from rock chemistry), mineral (from variations in mineral structures), or thermal (through thermal expansion and contraction from heat energy). The manifestation of this lateral density heterogeneity is mantle convection from buoyancy forces.[1] How mantle convection relates directly and indirectly to the motion of the plates is a matter of ongoing study and discussion in geodynamics. Somehow, this energy must be transferred to the lithosphere in order for tectonic plates to move. There are essentially two types of forces that are thought to influence plate motion: friction and gravity.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plate_Tectonics
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