Evaluate how plate tectonics theory helps our understanding of the distribution of seismic and volcanic events.

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Evaluate how plate tectonics theory helps our understanding of seismic and volcanic events (40 marks)

Plate tectonic theory suggests that the earth’s crust is made up of 8 main plates, as well as many other smaller ones. These plates float a top the asthenosphere and are constantly moving, thus constantly interaction with one another. This movement leads to volcanic and seismic events. Such knowledge of plate margins and their interaction can help us to understand the distribution of such events; this is because the majority of events are associated at such margins.

Plate tectonics theory was initially developed in 1912 by Wegener. His report but forward the theory of continental drift, suggesting that the continents were once joined as a supercontinent, Pangaea. Plates have since moved apart, and this continental drift is what leads to volcanic and seismic events.


Oceanic ridges are created when two plates diverge and magma rises between them from the asthenosere, creating new crust. This rising magma manifests itself as a volcanic event known as a fissure eruption. Plate tectonic theory aids our understanding, as it helps us to see how islands along the mid-Atlantic ridge, such as Iceland are formed. Iceland lies a top the mid-Atlantic ridge, thus was created through volcanic activity. Knowledge of tectonic theory helps us to understand why Iceland is an area of high volcanic activity, with around 130 volcanoes, it also helps us to understand why Iceland is growing in size, as it’s on the boundary between the converging North American plate and Eurasian plate, thus new crust and land is being created by volcanic eruptions.

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Paeleomagnetism suggests that the poles switch every several thousand years. Evidence of alternating polarity in the rocks in the ocean floor can be explained by plate tectonic theory. As two constructive plates diverge, new crust is gradually created over thousands of years, as polarity changes every 400,000 years, thus the different sections of this new crust are of alternating polarity. Knowledge of continental drift can thus explain why much of the sea floor is alternating polarity around mid-ocean ridges.

The discovery of destructive margins added more solidity to plate tectonic theory and also helped to show why volcanoes occur ...

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