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The Open University

Plate tectonics

The Open University via OpenLearn

Overview

Please note: This course is closing soon and will be removed from OpenLearn on 4 July 2024. Please make sure you have finished studying the course by then.  Plate tectonics is an earth sciences topic that attracts a good deal of interest, given that it a topic very often featured in popular science programmes on TV and radio. It is a subject that has strong visual appeal. In this 15-hour free course the coverage is self-contained, up to date and is written in a way that will be accessible to those with interest and motivation, all the more so for those who have some pre-existing scientific understanding.

Syllabus

  • Introduction
  • Learning outcomes
  • 1 Preamble: the moving Earth
  • 1 Preamble: the moving Earth
  • 2 From continental drift to plate tectonics
  • 2 From continental drift to plate tectonics
  • 2.1 Continental drift
  • 2.2 Evidence for continental drift
  • 2.2.1 Geometric continental reconstructions
  • 2.2.2 Geological match and continuity of structure
  • 2.2.3 Climate, sediment and the mismatch of sedimentary deposits with latitude
  • 2.2.4 Palaeontological evidence
  • 2.2.5 Palaeomagnetic evidence and 'polar wander'
  • 2.3 Sea-floor spreading
  • 2.3.1 Linear magnetic anomalies - a record of tectonic movement
  • 2.3.2 Plate tectonics
  • 3 The theory of plate tectonics
  • 3 The theory of plate tectonics
  • 3.1 Assumptions
  • 3.1.1 What is a plate?
  • 3.2 Heat flow within plates
  • 3.3 Constructive plate boundaries
  • 3.4 Destructive plate boundaries
  • 3.5 Destructive plate boundaries, continued: ocean-ocean (island-arc) subduction
  • 3.6 Destructive plate boundaries, continued: ocean-continent (Andean type) subduction
  • 3.7 Destructive plate boundaries, continued: continent-continent destructive boundaries
  • 3.8 Conservative plate boundaries and transform faults
  • 3.9 Triple junctions
  • 4 Plate tectonic motion
  • 4 Plate tectonic motion
  • 4.1 Relative plate motions
  • 4.2 Hot-spot trails and true plate motions
  • 4.3 Plate motion on a spherical Earth
  • 5 Plate driving forces
  • 5 Plate driving forces
  • 5.1 Why do plates move?
  • 5.2 Forces acting upon lithospheric plates
  • 5.2.1 Forces acting on the underside of lithospheric plates
  • 5.2.2 Lithospheric plates: forces acting at plate margins
  • 5.6 Implications of plate tectonics
  • 5.6.1 The Wilson cycle
  • 5.6.2 Plate tectonics and climate change
  • Conclusion
  • 5.8 Further reading
  • Acknowledgements

Reviews

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