Plate tectonicsInterestDescriptionForces in the Earth cause its surface to change over time, in the following JPL plot the vectors show direction and magnitude of motion.Plate tectonics is a scientific theory that describes the large scale motions of Earth's lithosphere. The theory builds on the concepts of continental drift, developed during the first decades of the 20th century, and accepted by the majority of the geoscientific community when the concepts of seafloor spreading were developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The lithosphere is broken up into tectonic plates. In the case of the Earth, there are currently seven or eight major (depending on how they are defined) and many minor plates. The lithospheric plates ride on the asthenosphere. These plates move in relation to one another at one of three types of plate boundaries: convergent, or collisional boundaries; divergent boundaries, also called spreading centers; and conservative transform boundaries. Earthquakes, volcanic activity, mountain-building, and oceanic trench formation occur along these plate boundaries. The lateral relative movement of the plates typically varies from 0–100 mm annually.
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