Essay Question

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How are ocean depths related to plate tectonic processes? Be sure to include divergent boundaries, convergent boundaries and abyssal plains in your answer.

According to the “plate-tectonics” theory, the Earth’s surface is broken into a number of shifting slabs or plates, which average about 50 miles in width. These plates move in relation to one another above a hotter, deeper, more mobile zone at average rates as great as a few inches per year. plate tectonics appear as powerful new hypotheses that geologists used to interpret the features and movements of the Earth’s surface layer. According to the plate tectonics theory, the Earth’s surface consists of about a dozen firm slabs or plates, each averaging at least 50 miles thick. Scientists distinguish three common types of boundaries between these moving plates:

  • Divergent or spreading — adjacent plates pull apart, such as at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which split the North and South American Plates from the Eurasian and African Plates. This pulling apart causes sea-floor spreading as new material is added to the oceanic plates.
  • Convergent — plates moving in opposite orders meet and one is dragged down (or subducted) beneath the other. Convergent plate boundaries are also called subduction zones and are characterized by the Aleutian Trench, where the Pacific Plate is being subducted under the North American Plate.
  • Abyssal plains –those parts of the ocean that start at the edge of the continental margin and continue into the ocean depths. These plains, which are enormously level, are the flattest places on earth and cover approximately one-half of the deep-ocean floor. The flatness of these plains is the consequence of the accumulation of a blanket of sediments, up to 5 kilometers thick, which overlies the basaltic rocks of the oceanic crust.

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