Plate Tectonics

Teresa Mensing
School of Earth Sciences
The Ohio State University

7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The outer rigid layer of the Earth, known as the lithosphere, is broken into fragments called tectonic plates. These plates are moving, driven by heat from the decay of radioactive isotopes in the Earth's mantle. The world's continents and ocean basins are embedded in the tectonic plates and have therefore been moving very slowly throughout geologic time, constantly reshaping the face of our planet. This phenomenon used to be called Continental Drift, but is now referred to as Plate Tectonics.

Over time, the gradual movement of the plates has been responsible for producing earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and the uplift of the world's mountain systems. In this Science Café, we will look at the scientific evidence geologists have gathered which documents the movements of the plates and how we have used our understanding of plate tectonics to solve a multitude of geologic mysteries.

Here is an audio recording of this science cafe in mp3 format.