* Geology is the study of the solid earth, its interior and the history of the earth. We will begin our study of geology with an in depth study of the Theory of Plate Tectonics.

Plate Tectonics Jeopardy Interior, Continental Drift, Seafloor Spreading, Plate Tectonics
Gelogy Dictionary: Geology and Earth Science Terms and Definitions

Introduction to the Theory of Plate Tectonics Choose a heading and click on it to bring you to the correct location on this page.
Earth's Layered Structure, Seismic Waves, Heat Transfer and Movement in the Asthenosphere Lab, The Theory of Continental Drift,
The Theory of Sea floor Spreading, The Theory of Plate Tectonics
I. Interior of the Earth

What Does the The Inside of Earth Look Like?
Earth's Interior
The earth is NOT homogeneous. Instead it is heterogeneously layered.
What are the Layers of the Earth?
Why is the Earth Layered?

What do the liquid layers have in common with the interior of the Earth? Click here and here to discover the answer!
Image Courtesy
What is Density?

Background Resources on
Earth's Internal Structure

Earth's Structure

The Structure of the Earth

/main.htmlEarth's Structure e notes Dynamic Earth

Layers of the Earth


Images and Animations
Inside Planet Earth Animation

Outer Layers of the Earth
How Do We Know the Earth is Layered?
What are Seismic Waves?
Seismic waves are the waves of energy caused by an earthquake (the breaking of rock) within Earth's Lithosphere.

There are two main types of seismic waves, surface and body waves. We will focus only on the body waves for our discovery of earth's interior because these waves can travel directly through the planet. The behavior of body waves as they travel through Earth allows scientists to make inferences about the planet's interior.

Body Waves:
~ P Waves - primary waves
~S Waves - secondary waves

Gather Background on P and S Waves here
Click here to discover haw P and S Waves move particles of rock as they travel through the planet.
How do Body Waves Travel through the Earth?
P & S Wave Simulation

Seismic Wave Simulation Lesson
Visualizing P and S waves moving through Earth
The Slinky and the Rope

How and Why Does the Upper Mantle or Asthenosphere Flow?

What is Heat Transfer?Click the link above and take an interactive journey to discover the answer to this question.
Heat is transferred from hotter objects to colder objects! There are three forms of heat transfer:

~Radiation - the transfer of heat through empty space (sunlight and heat from a fire)

~Conduction- the transfer of heat by direct contact between a hot object to a colder object. ( heat from a boiling pot of soup to a metal spoon placed in the soup)

~Convection- the transfer of heat by the movement of a heated fluid (heat transferring from warmer fluids to colder fluids like in a lava lamp)

LAB: Movement in the Upper Mantle or Asthenosphere Click the document below to open a template for the lab.

Template in Word Pad:

Click the document below to open in Word Pad. The jar images will not load, so you must draw them as they appear in your lab notebook. The image for the apply and infer section is on your hard copy, so refer to this to answer questions 1-8.

Lab Rubric download

What affect do convection currents in the Asthenosphere have on the Lithosphere above it? Play the simulation below to find out! Convection Currents in the Earth's Mantle Simulation

How does temperature affect the density of a fluid? Check out this link for a great visual
Open the template to the left and save it to your computer/flashdrive by naming it yourname_convection_lab

Type all information beneath each heading using a 12 font and double space your typing. You are allowed to change the font and add color if you like! Write in complete sentences and use the information in your lab notebook, textbook and the lab report rubric as a guide. Do not forget to save your work as you type.

Use Chapter 5 Section 2 : Convection and the Mantle or pages 134-135 to help you answer the conclusion and application questions!

lavablu21.gifYou may also refer to the lava lamp explanation as a model to help you! The process is the same!!!

Due Dates:

Is this the process you observed in the lab?

II.The Theory of Continental Drift - (1912) States that between 250-300 millions of years ago the continents were once joined in a single supercontinent named Pangaea, which means "all earth" or "all lands" in ancient Greek. This super continent slowly rifted (split) apart into today's land masses and drifted to their present locations.
Meet the scientist who proposed the Theory of Continental Drift!
Meteorologist and Climatologist
Who was Alfred Wegener?

Click on the links below to view short video clips about Wegener, the "Father of Modern Geology and his Theory of Continental Drift:"

What Evidence did Wegener use
to Support his Theory?

1. Jig-saw Puzzle fit of the continents along the continental shelf edges was Wegener's initial (first) piece of evidence. platfit.jpg
2. Identical rock sequences of the same type and age are found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Wegener reasoned that the rocks formed side-by-side at the same time and that the land had since moved apart.

3.Climate Clues i
ndicate that areas that are warmer today were once much cooler and closer to the South Pole.
  • Glacial Deposits (Till) and Glacial Grooving (scratches) on continents of Africa, South America and India and Australia indicate that they were connected and were covered by a large continental ice sheet located in the South Pole with Antarctica. These landmasses are located in warm climates zones today and could never be covered by ice so this is evidence used to support Wegener's theory.
Glacial deposits (of the same type and age)like these in Africa are also found in India, Antarctica, Australia, and South America.

Glacial grooving (scratches) are seen as verticle scratches left in bedrock as glaciers moved across the land

Continental Ice Sheet and the areas covered 300 million years ago

  • Similar Coal Deposits found in cold climates indicate that these areas were much warmer because coal only forms from decaying plant matter in warm tropical conditions. Click here to learn about how coal forms.

Pangaean Coal Deposits

Watch the Break up of Pangaea


View Additional Animations Below:


4.Fossils of the same species of extinct plants and animals are found in rocks of the same age, but on continents that are now widely separated.

Wegener believed that the organisms would not have been able to travel across the oceans.

  • Glossopteris was a large fern that grew in a warm tropical environment with seeds too heavy to be carried across the oceans by the wind. The presence of glossopteris fossil remains in a cool climate (Antarctica) also gives evidence that Antarctica must have been in a warmer hemisphere in the past.
Glossopteris Leaf Fossils

  • Mesosaurus was a small swimming reptile, but could only swimesosaurus.jpgm in fresh water. Fossil remains are found in Africa and South America.

Cynognathus skull
Cynognathus1140277433.jpgCynognathus fossils
are found in rock of the same age and type in Africa and South America.
Lystrosaurus Skull

Lystrosaurus fossils are found in Africa, India and Antarctica.

Wegener stated that the land was together when each organism lived and that they drifted (with the continents) once they were dead and fossilized.

5. Matching Mountain Ranges with the same rock type, structures and ages are found on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Ex: The Appalachians of eastern United States and Canada are just like mountain ranges in eastern Greenland, Ireland, Great Britain, and Norway. Wegener concluded that they formed as a single mountain range that was separated as the continents drifted.
With all of this valid and supportive evidence,
Wegener's theory was still rejected.


What was the weakness of the Theory of Continental Drift?

The fatal weakness to Wegener's Theory of Continental Drift is that he could not explain a reason for How or Why the continents were moving. Although today we theorize that convection in the Asthenosphere is the driving force behind the motion of tectonic plates which carry the continents on them, we did not have the necessary technology in the 1900's to make these inferences.

Want to Learn More?
Pangaea did not break apart into pieces that moved to their current locations instantly. Continental rifting and motion is an extremely slow process and occurred (and is still occurring) over millions of years. Currently the plates which carry the continents are drifting apart at an average rate of 2-4 cm/year. Evidence suggests that initial rifting of the super continent created two large land masses about 200 million years ago.
  • In the Northern hemisphere was Laurasia, which consisted of the present day land masses of North America, Greenland, Asia and Europe.
  • The Southern hemisphere was home to Gondwanaland, which was composed of South America, Africa, India, Antarctica and Australia.
Just for Fun:
Continental Crack-up! A Scene from the movie Ice Age: Continental Drift coming to theaters this July 20102

III. The Theory of Seafloor Spreading (1960) - states that the seafloor spreads apart along both sides of a mid oceanic ridge as new crust is added. As a result the ocean floors move like conveyor belts, carrying the continents with them.

Earth Revealed: The Theory of Seafloor Spreading video

Meet the scientist who proposed the Theory of Seafloor Spreading:harry_hess.jpg

Watch a video clip about his great discovery here!

ALVIN Submersible and Seafloor Spreading

Supporting Evidence for Seafloor Spreading

1. Molten Material - Screen shot 2013-11-20 at 5.17.22 AM.png
2. Magnetic Striping in Rock -
Screen shot 2013-11-20 at 5.17.31 AM.png

3. Age of Drilling Samples -
Screen shot 2013-11-20 at 5.18.06 AM.png

Map showing the Age of the Ocean Floor

4Z_draft_Age of the Ocean Floor - map.gif
Seafloor basalt is youngest at mid-ocean ridges (dark red) and oldest adjacent to continents and/or near trenches (dark blue). Map source: NOAA.

Plate tectonic online Lesson
Interactives: Our Dynamic Earth
How Are Earthquakes Related to Plate Tectonics?

c AGreat Lesson

Rock Lesson

Sonar and Mapping the Ocean Floor

What Does the Seafloor look lIke?


Mid Ocean Ridges are underwater volcanic mountains that wrap around the Earth. New seafloor is created at all mid-ocean ridges.

Screen shot 2013-11-20 at 5.16.18 AM.png
Mid Atlantic Ridge

The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is the longest singe mid -ocean ridge. It runs 10,000 miles or (16,000 km) long.

Afar depression, Ethiopia Africa. Site where a new ocean will form.

Watch Birth of a New Ocean Video

Mid Ocean Ridge Simulation

Theory of Plate Tectonics

Seafloor Spreading Power Point Notes

href="" title="Sea Floor Spreading" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Sea Floor Spreading from bjansen

What Moves the Seafloor?


Look Familiar? Convection Currents in the Asthenosphere drag the seafloor and cause it and the continents to move!

Screen shot 2013-11-20 at 5.16.38 AM.png
IV. The Theory of Plate Tectonics -


Week of
Viscosity of Magma Lab template here!

Week of

Periods 3,4,5,7,1
Complete a Video Summary of the National Geographic film, "Volcano."