Tectonic Plates

Tectonic plates are large pieces of the Earth’s crust and upper mantle that move slowly over time.

These plates are made up of rock and other materials, and they move because of heat from the Earth’s core.

When these plates move, they can cause earthquakes, volcanoes, and the formation of mountains over time.

Amazingly, they are found all over the world and really help to shape the Earth’s surface.

Tectonic Plate Facts for Kids

  • There are seven major tectonic plates
  • Divergent, Convergent, and Transform are types of plate movement
  • Juan de Fuca Plate is the smallest of Earth’s tectonic plates
  • Tectonic plates moving can cause tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanoes
  • A collision between the African and Arabian plates formed the Red Sea.
  • California’s San Andreas Fault is a famous transform boundary.
  • The deepest part of the ocean is the Mariana Trench.
  • The Pacific Plate is moving under the Mariana Plate.
  • Scientists can now track how tectonic plates move using GPS.
  • The Himalayan Mountains, including Mount Everest, were formed by the convergent boundary of the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate.
  • 250 million years ago all the continents were joined together. This made up one massive continent called Pangaea.

Seven major tectonic plates

There are seven major tectonic plates that we’ve listed below

The speed of plate movement for each of these plates is very difficult to really determine because, as I’m sure you’ll know, it can vary depending on the location and type of boundary.

They are difficult to track as the plates move at a rate of a few centimeters per year, but some plates may move faster or slower than this.

PlateSpeed of Plate MovementTypes of Boundaries
AfricanA few centimeters per yearConvergent, Divergent, Transform
AntarcticA few centimeters per yearConvergent, Divergent, Transform
EurasianA few centimeters per yearConvergent, Divergent, Transform
North AmericanA few centimeters per yearConvergent, Divergent, Transform
South AmericanA few centimeters per yearConvergent, Divergent, Transform
Indian-AustralianA few centimeters per yearConvergent, Divergent, Transform
PacificA few centimeters per yearConvergent, Divergent, Transform

How Tectonic Plate Movement Can Affect The Earth’s Surface

  • The movement of plates can cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
  • Plates moving against each other can create mountain ranges, such as the Himalayas and the Andes.
  • The movement of plates can cause the formation of deep ocean trenches, such as the Mariana Trench.
  • Plate movement can also cause the creation of new oceanic crust, such as at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.
  • Over millions of years, plates can separate continents, as in the separation of South America and Africa.
  • Continents can also collide, leading to the formation of large land masses, such as Pangaea.
  • As plates move, erosion and other geologic processes can reshape the Earth’s surface.

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What are Tectonic Plates?

Tectonic plates are big pieces of the Earth’s crust and mantle that move slowly.
These plates are made of rock and other materials, and they move because of heat from the Earth’s core.

Movement can cause earthquakes, volcanoes, and mountains.

They have helped shape the Earth and are important for how the Earth changes and grows over time.

Major and Minor Tectonic Plates

Most of the Earth is covered by seven major plates and another eight or so minor plates.

The seven major plates are the

  • African plate
  • Antarctic plate
  • Eurasian plate
  • North American plate
  • South American plate
  • India-Australian plate
  • Pacific plate

Some of the minor plates include

  • Arabian plate
  • Caribbean plate
  • Nazca plate
  • Scotia plate
  • Philippine plate
  • Cocos plate
  • Juan de Fuca plate
  • Caribbean plate
  • Explorer plate
  • Gorda plate
  • Rivera plate

The Ring of Fire

The “ring of fire” is caused by the movement of tectonic plates and is located in the Pacific Ocean.

When these plates move, they can cause earthquakes and volcanoes, and the “ring of fire” is an area where this happens a lot.

Continents and Oceans

Tectonic plates are giant pieces of rock that make up the Earth’s crust. They are so big and heavy that they can move around on their own, like cars on a road.

Oceanic

Ocean plates are the ones that are under the ocean, and they are made of a special type of rock called “sima” that is very strong and tough.

Continental

Continental plates are the ones that are on the land, and they are made of a different kind of rock called “sial” that is also very strong but a little bit lighter.

Plate Boundaries

If you wanted to see the tectonic plates moving, then the best place would be at the boundaries of the plates as this is where they move the most.

There are three types of boundaries.

Convergent Boundaries

Tectonic plates are always moving, and when two of them push together, that’s called a boundary.

Sometimes, one of the plates will move under the other one, which is called subduction.

Even though the plates move very slowly, these boundaries can be where mountains and volcanoes are made, and they can also cause a lot of earthquakes.

Subduction is a big word that your teacher will be impressed by if you use it in a sentence!

Divergent Boundaries

A divergent boundary is one where two plates actually get pushed apart. The area on land where the boundary is found is called a rift.

The new land is created by magma pushing up from the mantle and cooling as it reaches the surface.

Transform Boundaries

A transform boundary is one where two plates slide past each other. They obviously aren’t too keen on meeting up.

These places are called faults, and you often find a lot of earthquakes in these areas.

So, now you should know everything there is to know about tectonic plates.

It’s pretty interesting, don’t you think, with these massive plates moving around the Earth?