Chapter 1: Section 4 - Plate Motions and Plate Interactions

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In this section you will find materials that support the implementation of EarthComm, Section 4: Plate Motions and Plate Interactions.

Learning Outcomes

  • Use models to explain how plates move and interact at plate boundaries.
  • Analyze data on a world map that show relative plate motion to classify the types of movement at plate boundaries.
  • Analyze and interpret data on world maps that show plate boundaries and plate motion to describe the present and future plate tectonic setting of your community.
  • Evaluate evidence collected by scientists that supports the theory of plate tectonics.

Inquiring Further

  1. To learn more about the motions of lithospheric plates, visit the following web sites:

    Paleomap Project, Christopher R. Scotese
    Allows you to view plate motions from the past 200 million years, as well as predicted motions 25 million years into the future.

    Geology : Plate Tectonics, University of California Museum of Paleontology
    Information on plate tectonics, including animations of plate motions for the past 750 million years.

Plate Tectonics Maps, DeepTime Maps, Ron Blakey
Detailed maps showing the paleogeography from different periods and time-slices for selected regions.


To learn more about this topic, visit the following web sites:

Cascades Volcano Observatory, USGS
Information on volcanic hazards, activity, history, and monitoring of volcanoes.

Cascades Eruptions During the Past 4000 Years, USGS
Figure showing the eruptions of Cascade volcanoes over the last 4,000 years.

Types of Plate Boundaries

Understanding Plate Motions, from This Dynamic Planet, USGS
Reviews the types of plate boundaries and the basics of plate motions.

Types of Plate Boundaries, from This Dynamic Earth, USGS
Artist's cross section illustrating the main types of plate boundaries.

How Plates Move, Volcano World
Brief overview of the three types of plate motions. Includes good schematic drawings of each type.

Divergent Plate Boundaries

Plate Tectonics: Sea Floor Spreading, Scripps Institute of Oceanography
Watch an animation and read the main ideas about the cause of sea floor spreading and its effects.

Convergent Plate Boundaries

Convergent Plate Boundaries, USGS
Continental vs. ocean crust setting? Explains why plates are subducted at convergent plate boundaries and what happens to them once they are subducted.

Cascade Range Volcanoes and Volcanics, USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory
An example of an oceanic-continental plate boundary is the Cascade Range in the Western United States. Volcanoes are formed along the US coast as the oceanic Juan de Fuca plate plunges below the continental North American plate. This web site provides an in-depth review of the geologic history of the Cascade volcanoes.

Kick 'Em Jenny, West Indies, USGS
Kick 'Em Jenny and Kick 'Em Jack are the names of two volcanoes in the Caribbean Sea north of Grenada. Learn how the collision of two oceanic plates can create areas of intense volcanic activity.