Major Tectonic Plates Of Earth

Tectonic plates are parts of Earth's crust and uppermost mantle, comprising the lithosphere.

Tectonic plates are gigantic segments of rock that constitute the lithosphere and are in constant motion relative to each other. The Earth’s crust and the mantle make up the lithosphere. Tectonic Plates consist of oceanic and continental crusts. Oceanic crust is made of seas and oceans while continental crust is made of the land mass. Tectonic Plates form either divergent, transform, or convergent boundaries when they come into contact. Volcanoes, rift-valleys, mountain ranges, and earthquakes are the results of the movement of tectonic plates in relation to each other and occur at their tectonic boundaries. The movement of tectonic plates is fueled by convection taking place due to the heat in the Earth’s mantle. There are major and minor tectonic plates.

Major Tectonic Plates On Earth

Pacific Plate

Pacific Plate is estimated to be 103,300,000 square kilometers in size. Pacific Plate is found underneath the Pacific Ocean and is the largest tectonic plate known. Most of it is an oceanic crust except in New Zealand and parts of California. To the east of the plate boundaries are the Juan de Fuca Plate, the Nazca, and Cocos Plates, Explorer Plate, Gorda Plate, and the North American Plate. To the south of the plate is a divergent boundary with the Antarctic Plate. To the west borders the Philippine Plate and the Bismarck Plate North. The Pacific Plate subducts the North American Plate to the North. The Pacific Plate forms convergent and transforms boundaries on its South-Western side. A hot spot on the plate gave rise to the Hawaiian Islands. The Pacific Plate has the Ring of Fire, an area on the floor of the Pacific Ocean where volcanic activity and earthquakes are most active.

North American Plate

North American plate is second in size with an estimated area of 75,900,000 square kilometers. It consists of continental crust and oceanic crust. The Continental Crust is made up of most of North America, Cuba, and Bahamas and parts of Serbia, Iceland, and Greenland. The plate borders with the Pacific Plate to the west. Smaller Plates on the western border are Gorda, Explorer, Cocos, Nazca and the Juan de Fuca. Contact with the Eurasian Plate is on the eastern border, and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a mountain chain beneath the Atlantic Ocean was the result of their diverging boundary. The plate has a notable hot spot which is caused by eruptions within the Plate. The hot spot has geysers and hot water springs.

Eurasian Plate

Eurasian Plate has an estimated area of 67,800,000 square kilometers and is the third largest of the major tectonic plates. Most of the continents of Europe and Asia are in the Eurasian Plate. The eastern side borders the Philippine Plate and the North American Plate. Arabian, Indo-Australian and African Plates come into contact with the Eurasian Plate on it southern side. To the west of the Eurasian Plate lies the North American Plate. A prominent geological feature on the Eurasian Plate is the Himalayas ranges, a result of its collision with the Indian Plate. Eurasian is a geologically active plate, with volcanoes and earthquakes in its continents. Deposits of Salts are in some arid nations such as Iran and Oil deposits is also plenty the North Sea.

African Plate

African plate is the fourth largest Plate with an estimated area of 61,300,000 square kilometers. Most of the African continent is on the African Plate. The African Plate also includes substantial parts of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. The Plate is slowly splitting at the East African Rift Valley which runs from the Red Sea to Kenya. It subducts below the Eurasian Plate on its Western side. Arabian and Somali Plates form boundaries with the African Plate to the East while Eurasian Plate is in contact on its Northern Side. Arabia and Madagascar were all part of African Plate until they split and drifted away. Notably, Sicily is also a part of the African Plate.

Other Large Tectonic Plates

Other major tectonic plates, listed by virtue of their size are, the Antarctic Plate at 60,900,000 square kilometers in area, the Indo-Australian Plate (58,000,000 square kilometers), the Australian Plate (47,000,000 square kilometers), the Indian Plate (11,900,000 square kilometers), and the South American Plate (43,600,000 square kilometers). Earth also has lesser plates, located mostly in oceans and seas. They include the Juan de Fuca Plate found northwest off North America’s coast, the Arabian Plate found in the Middle East and Asia, the Caribbean Plate found underneath the Caribbean Sea off the north of South America’s coast, and the Philippine Plate underneath the Philippine Sea on the eastern side of the Philippines.

Major Tectonic Plates On Earth

RankMajor PlatesSize
1Pacific Plate103,300,000 km2
2North American Plate75,900,000 km2
3Eurasian Plate67,800,000 km2
4African Plate61,300,000 km2
5Antarctic Plate 60,900,000 km2
6Indo-Australian Plate58,000,000 km2
7Australian Plate 47,000,000 km2
8Indian Plate11,900,000 km2
9South American Plate43,600,000 km2

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