Tectonic Plates and Boundaries Map
This map shows Tectonic Plates in light blue. Continents are shown in light brown. It also shows Plate Boundaries in yellow. To see the name of each plate or boundary type hover over the map, for more detail, zoom in. Scroll down if you want to read more about Tectonic Plates and Boundaries.
|CCB: Continental Convergent Boundary||CRB: Continental Rift Boundary||CTF: Continental Transform Fault|
|OCB: Oceanic Convergent Boundary||OSR: Oceanic Spreading Ridge||OTF: Oceanic Transform Fault|
|SUB: Subduction Zone|
|JF||Juan de Fuca|
Internal Earth's Structure
Earth's internal structure can be divided into different ways. If you divide it into mechanical layers you find the Lithosphere and the Asthenosphere.
The outermost layer of Earth is called the Lithosphere. The Lithosphere is solid and brittle. The Lithosphere is covered by the atmosphere and lays on top of the asthenosphere.
The Lithosphere is relatively cool and the rock is resistant to deformation.
The Lithosphere is made of two layers, the Earth's Crust and part of the Mantle. Source: Waterencyclopedia.com
The Ocean Crust is under the sea, and it has an almost constant thickness. It usually measures between 3.2 - 4.3 miles (7 - 5 Km).
Because its main component is Basalt, the average density of the Oceanic Crust is 3.0g/cm3.
The Continental Crust is under the continents. Its thickness is variable with an average of 18.6 miles (30Km). In areas with mountains, it can reach a depth of 62.1 miles (100Km).
The Continental Crust is mainly made up of Granite. Granite is rich in minerals feldspar and quartz (aluminum and silicon). Because of its composition, it has a lower density than the Ocean Crust, averaging 2.7g/cm3.
The asthenosphere is below the Lithosphere. The asthenosphere is viscous and is made of semi-plastic rock. It is believed the Asthenosphere moves very slowly.
The Asthenosphere is entirely made of the Mantle. You could say the Lithosphere floats on top of the Asthenosphere.
The lithosphere is broken down into large tectonic plates or lithospheric plates. These are sections into which the lithosphere is cracked.
The Earth is divided into 7 major and 15 minor plates listed above and represented on the map. This list shows 8 Major pates because the Indian and the Australian Plate are considered to be fused into one.
Tectonic Plates are on average 77.6 miles (125 Km), reaching maximum thickness at mountain ranges. Geological society.
Tectonic plates may be composed of Oceanic Crust and Continental Crust like the African Plate and the South American Plate.
The image below, shows me, pointing at the North American Plate on one side and the Eurasian Plate on the other. It was taken at the divergent rift valley in Iceland (near Reykjavík).
Different theories explain Plate Tectonics. That is the motion of plates relative to each other. On average plates move 1 to 6 inches (2 to 15cm) per year.
This interaction has caused formations like the San Andreas Fault in California or the Himalayas mountain range in Asia.
One theory suggests that the convection of the Asthenosphere and Lithosphere move the plates at different rates. National Geographic.
This convection theory is currently out of favor. Recent imaging techniques are unable to spot mantle convection cells large enough to move plates. Some models show the surface moving faster than the mantle!
The current theory is known as "slab pull". It states that the new Lithosphere is less dense than the Asthenosphere. As it ages, it gets cooler and denser. This causes it to sink at subduction zones, pulling slabs of the lithosphere apart, creating rifts. Geological Society
The edge where Tectonic Plates meet is called plate boundaries. Along these boundaries, you will find most of the mountain ranges, earthquakes, volcanic activity, and Ocean Trenches.
Because of Plate Tectonics Plate Boundaries may be classified into three different types: Convergent, Divergent, and Transform.
Convergent Boundary is where two plates collide.
Continental Convergent Boundary
Where two continental plates collide. Normally when they collide they smash together. This convergence will likely form mountains.
The crust is too thick for magma to get through so there are no volcanoes formed.
An example of Continental Convergent Boundary is the Himalayas by the collision of the India Plate with the Eurasian Plate.
Oceanic Convergent Boundary
The older, denser slabs of the oceanic crust will plunge beneath the less dense oceanic crust. This convergence will form volcanoes. RWU
Japan, the Aleutian Islands, the Caribbean islands of Martinique, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent are examples of islands formed through this type of plate boundary.
Where older denser oceanic lithosphere sinks under a continental mass and is melted into the mantle. Subduction zones are likely to form trenches and form volcanoes.
Where two plates move apart, creating or producing new crust and lithosphere. These are most common under the ocean.
Continental Rift Boundary
These are Divergent Boundaries that occur on the continental lithosphere. As the rigid lithosphere thins, and warms, rifts and rift valleys form. These rifts are likely to produce new oceans.
A well-known Continental Rift is the East African Rift between the African and Somalian plates over a large area of Africa. FSU.
Oceanic Spreading Ridge
This type of Divergent Boundary occurs on the ocean floor. These are fracture zones where new crust is created by molten mantle material that comes to the surface.
These fractures are visible on the ocean floor as a line ridge formed of molten rock that rises and solidifies. As this molten rock reaches the sea bottom, it produces volcanic eruptions of basalt.
The speed at which the ridges spread affects the ridge shape. Slow spreading ridges are irregular and steep. Fast spreading ones are wider and have gentler slopes.
The mid-Atlantic ridge is a well-known slow-spreading ridge. NOAA
Transform Boundaries exist where plates slide past each other. These are also called "Conservative" Plate Boundaries, as plate material is not created or destroyed.
They play a key role in plate tectonics as they allow connections between ridges and trenches by accomodating lateral movement.
Their study is also important because these boundaries can produce high magnitude earthquakes and trigger tsunamis.
Continental Transform Fault
These Transform Faults occur between margins of the continental crust.
A well-known example is the San Andreas Transform Fault in California.
Oceanic Transform Fault
These are mainly linked to plate growth, as they accommodate horizontal movements of mid-ocean ridges.
They have a particular structure of narrow valleys and steep walls that can reach 6,561feet (2,000m). These scars the ocean floor miles beyond the active plate boundary. The scars are called fracture zones. Frontiers in Earth Science
Orogens are ancient folded mountain belts. Orogenenesis is the process that leads to their formation. These commonly occur when two plates converge. U. Alberta
Databayou.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. Databayou.com also participates in affiliate programs with Clickbank, CJ, and other sites.
- Sea Floor Exploration: Scientific Adventures Diving into the Abyss (Springer Oceanography). This book provides an overview of the past 45 years of seafloor exploration.
- Global Tectonics: Introduction to all aspects of global tectonics.
- Plate Tectonics: Continental Drift and Mountain Building (Springer Textbooks in Earth Sciences, Geography and Environment).
- National Geographic: The Dynamic Earth, Plate Tectonics Wall Map This is a Laminated Poster (Size: 36 x 24 inches), perfect to hang in your office or home.
Resources for Tectonic Plates and Boundaries
The information on which this map is based comes from the article An updated digital model of plate boundaries by Peter Bird.
The tectonic plates and boundaries shapefiles to create this map were downloaded from GitHub.
The Shapefiles for the continents were downloaded from Natural Earth.
To receive updates on this and more nature maps join my email list!!!!!!!