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USGS CMG InfoBank: Mechanisms of Plate Tectonics

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Comment: 23:42 - 25:06 (01:24)
Source: Annenberg/CPB Resources - Earth Revealed - 5. The Birth of a Theory
Keywords: "Jason Saleeby", "plate tectonics", mechanism, "Alfred Wegener", convection, Earth, crust, plate, mantle, process, mountain, basin

Our transcription: Although plate tectonics explains many geological phenomena, certain questions about how it actually operates remain.
Earth scientists are still trying to understand the mechanisms of tectonic activity.
In terms of the next challenge of plate tectonics, it really goes back to the initial debates back to Wegener's time, which centered on the actual driving mechanism.
We know that the Earth is convecting, and that the movement of the plates is related to this convection.
We don't really understand the dynamics of the convection very well.
Whether or not the updrafts are actually driving the plates apart or whether the colder parts of the plates that are being driven back into the mantle are actually pulling the plates apart or whether it's some combination of the two.
So it's this question that a lot of debate is focused on right now.
In terms of the more surface level processes, I think the major advances or frontiers really deal with rates of processes.
How fast do certain plates move past one another, and how rapidly does that cause mountains to form, basins to drop down, basins to turn back into mountains.

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