How The Continental Drift Works

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About this sample


Words: 946 |

Pages: 2|

5 min read

Published: Oct 22, 2018

Words: 946|Pages: 2|5 min read

Published: Oct 22, 2018

The continental drift is a movement of earth continents. The continental drift demonstrated how continents shift positions on the earth’s surface. It was discovered and developed in the early 20th century. The continents are combined to form a single supercontinent. In addition, the continents lay on slabs of rocks called tectonic plates. The term “plate” is referred to as large rigid blocks of an earth surface that moves together. The theory of plate tectonics is the Earth’s outer shell divided into several different plates that make a smooth continuous movement over the mantle. All plates always remain moving interacting. Even today, the continental drift is still moving worldwide. Evidence for/and arguments against this theory: Some arguments that were against the theory of continental drift was the lack of speaking on the theory of mechanism and how it works.

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“ Scientists did not accept Wegener’s theory of continental drift. One of the elements lacking in the theory was the mechanism for how it works—why did the continents drift and what patterns did they follow?” ( National Geographic). On the other hand, people thought some of Alfred Wegener’s theories weren’t thought through or incorrect. For example, “ Most of Wegener’s observations about fossils and rocks were correct, he was outlandishly wrong on a couple of key points. For instance, Wegener thought the continents might have plowed through the ocean crust like icebreakers smashing through the ice.” (Live Science)

Paleomagnetism: The study of geophysics from the earth’s magnetic field involving: the magnetism, sediment, and archeological materials. It gives us the ability to predict the direction of the magnetic field at any time located on the earth’s surface. Additionally, the discovery of paleomagnetism of rocks was studied back in the 1960s.

Deformation of rocks: Rocks are deformed when the Earth’s crust is compressed or stretched. There are compression and tension. Tension occurs when tectonic plates have the ability to pull from each other which then allows the crust to appear thinner and longer. The rocks become faulted and create different rift valleys. Additionally, Compression happens when tectonic plates are forced together and makes the crust become thicker and shorter creating mountain ranges. Scientists that formulated the theory of continental drift: Alfred Wegener, was a geologist that formulated the theory of continental drift hypothesis. His first hypothesis was presented in 1912. Additionally, Wegener studied stratigraphy about different ranges of rocks and mountain ranges. ” Wegener thought all the continents were once joined together in an “Urkontinent” before breaking up and drifting to their current positions. But geologists soundly denounced Wegener’s theory of continental drift after he published the details in a 1915 book called “The Origin of Continents and Oceans.” (Live Science). Another scientist that participated in the theory of continental drift is Frank Taylor. He was an American geologist and was a contributor to the theory of the continental drift along with Alfred Wegener.

Plates interactions:

The basic boundaries:

Divergent plate boundary: When two tectonic plates begin to separate and move away from each other. A mid-oceanic ridge is formed from magma and the seafloor begins spreading.

Convergent plate boundary: Convergent plate boundary occurs when two tectonic plates are moving towards each other. When continental and oceanic plates are moving towards each other, oceanic plates become denser than continental plates because of the number difference.

Transform plate boundary: This boundary occurs when two plates begin sliding sideways past one another. They grind past each other without creating or destroying lithosphere.

Oceanic crust: Oceanic older, denser oceanic crust is subducted (sinks below) volcanic island is formed- Aleutian islands trench forms.

Types of convergent boundaries: Oceanic crust converging with continental crustOceanic crust with oceanic crust.

Continental crust converging with continental crust.

Real-life applications of the continental drift theory: The theory of the Continental drift can connect to the real life because “Around the same time, a group of transatlantic telephone companies asked Heezen to locate areas of possible seismic or earthquake activity in the Atlantic. Phone company officials reasoned that if they could find the areas most likely to experience seismic activity, they could avoid placing their cables in those areas.” (Science Clarified) This piece of text proves how applying knowledge about the continental drift will help people have a better understanding of the things that happen around them. In addition “ Studies have served to confirm the ideas of continental drift and plate tectonics, while research conducted at sea bolsters seafloor spreading theory. Using devices called magnetometers, geologists have found that the orientation of magnetic minerals on one side of a rift mirrors that of materials on the other side. This suggests that the new rock on either side of the rift was formed simultaneously, as seafloor spreading theory indicates.” ( Science Clarified) This other piece of text evidence indicates that the continental drift can help geologists, create new theories and ideas about things that are connected to the continental drift. It gives them the opportunity to expand their understanding.

Tectonic plate movements and how they affect the surface :

The 3 different type of plate movements are :

Divergent Converging Transform

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These plate movements are very effective because plates have the ability to interact with one another and cause massive destruction. For example “ The consequences of plate movement are easy to see around Krafla Volcano, in the northeastern part of Iceland. Here, existing ground cracks have widened and new ones appear every few months. From 1975 to 1984, numerous episodes of rifting (surface cracking) took place along the Krafla fissure zone. Some of these rifting events were accompanied by volcanic activity; the ground would gradually rise 1-2 m before abruptly dropping, signaling an impending eruption.” ( Pubs).

Works Cited

  1. Tarbuck, E. J., Lutgens, F. K., & Tasa, D. G. (2017). Earth Science. Pearson.
  2. Trefil, J., & Hazen, R. M. (2019). The Sciences: An Integrated Approach. Wiley.
  3. Wicander, R., & Monroe, J. S. (2019). Historical Geology: Evolution of Earth and Life through Time. Cengage Learning.
  4. Press, F., Siever, R., Grotzinger, J., & Jordan, T. (2003). Understanding Earth. W. H. Freeman.
  5. Leeder, M. (2016). Sedimentology and Sedimentary Basins: From Turbulence to Tectonics. Wiley.
  6. Fossen, H. (2016). Structural Geology. Cambridge University Press.
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How the continental drift works. (2018, October 22). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 2, 2023, from
“How the continental drift works.” GradesFixer, 22 Oct. 2018,
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