|Are the tectonic plates flat or curved to fit the
surface of the earth?
|Question Date: 2004-11-17|
Tectonic plates are curved -- they can cover very
large areas of the planet (consider the pacific
plate), yet are only a few tens of kilometers thick.
The plates are curved to fit the shape of the
Earth. The Pacific Plate, which spans roughly a
quarter of the Earth's surface area, would stick
thousands of kilometers into space were it flat.
The tectonic plates are curved to fit the surface
of the earth. However, it might be more correct
to say that the surface of the earth is curved
because the plates are curved. Since the plates
make up the outer crust of the planet, their shape
determines the shape of the planet. Because the
earth's gravity is quite strong in all directions,
the whole planet, including the plates on the
surface, is held in a curved, spherical shape.
Yes, they are actually spherical caps that follow
the curvature of the earth. In fact, they DEFINE
the curvature of the Earth. they are called
plates because we usually depict them on a 2D map
surface... a flat plane... but really the earth is
Tectonic plates are curved to fit the surface of
the earth. For instance, the Pacific Plate (on
which we live!) curves across about 40% of the
earth near the equator. If tectonic plates were
truly flat, they would have to be very small and
there would be thousands of them to fit around the
spherical shape of the earth - rather like all the
little flat mirror pieces that are glued onto a
ball to make a discoball. Instead, the earth has
about 10 major tectonic plates that can be
thousands of miles across each.
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