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GGR101H1F 20/09/12

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University of Toronto St. George
Tony Davis

GGR101H1F 20/09/12 PLATE TECTONICS (Reading 2) - What are plate tectonics? o Used to be called “continental drift” o Involves creation & recycling of Earth’s crust  Tectonic & volcanic activity o Continuous process; no beginning or end - Why does it happen? o Crust floating on the mantle o Large convective currents flowing through the molten material - How long has it been going on? o Going on as long as the Earth has had a crust – 4 billion years o Numerous agglomerations and dispersals of continental blocks  Latest “cycle”: breakup of Pangaea (250 MYBP) - How do we know about the pattern and speed of the process? o - What are its impacts? o Changes global geography by agglomeration & dispersal of continental masses o Changes global topography by mountain building o Extends major control on global climate on a range of time scales  Controls global carbon cycle (Earth’s Greenhouse Effect)  A. changes locations of continents  B. changes mass and topography  C. influences atmospheric chemistry o Also influence climate through atmospheric chemistry & transparency  Most connected to volcanic activity (to effects of individual eruptions & long term variations in intensity of global volcanism) o N & S hemispheres have distinct biological differences  NH more modern, SH more ancient elements  Placentals, marsupials & monostremes  Gymnospers & angiosperms  Ratites (Emu, Kiwi, Ostrich, etc., other flightless birds)  Eucalyptus  only in Oceania o Distinctive biological impact of plate tectonics: related to islands’ flora and fauna  Islands mostly volcanic  Ex. Lonesome George, Flightless comorant - Consequences o Major control on global climate at range of time scales; size & character of carbon cycle is critical o Climate change constrained human evolution o Controlled diffusion of people o
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