Past and future consequences of plate tectonics for the Earth's surface are
Some Past and Present Consequences
Plate tectonics has been responsible for many of the features that we find on
the surface of the Earth today. A few examples include
of the motion of continental plates for the last 750 million years.
- The Appalachian Mountains were formed from wrinkling of the Earth's surface
produced by the collision of the North American and African plates.
- The seismic and volcanic activity of the West Coast of the United States
(for example, the
produced by the grinding of the Pacific and North American Plates against each
other. Indeed, the
entire "ring of fire" around the Pacific, corresponding to regions
of high volcanic and seismic activity, is caused primarly by the motion of the
- The Dead Sea in Israel is part of a rift system produced by plates that are
pulling apart in that region.
- The Himalayan Mountains were formed (indeed are still growing) as a result
of the Indian subplate burrowing under the Eurasian plate and raising its edge.
Some Future Consequences of Plate Tectonics
Plate tectonics is still an active process, and will drastically reshape the
face of the Earth over the next 50 million years or so. A few consequences of
plate tectonics based on projections of present motion include:
As a consequence of plate tectonics (supplemented by wind and water erosion),
we live on the surface of a geologically active planet that has obliterated
most of its early geological history.
- Portions of California will separate from the rest of North America.
- The Italian "boot" will disappear.
- Australia will become linked to Asia.
- Africa will separate from the Near East.