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Plate tectonics and Earth's geography, climate and organisms

How has plate tectonics affected Earth's climate over time? How has it affected Earth's geography? How has it affected the distribution of organisms, both living and fossils?

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Hello!
I hope this response helps you in your studies.
Okay, so each of your questions revolves around plate tectonics. Plate tectonics, briefly, is the theory that the upper layer of the mantle along with the overriding crust (together called the lithosphere) is broken up into massive chunks that are called plates. These plates are then independently moving atop the lower mantle which moves slowly (like taffy or warm plastic...in fact, this property is called plasticity) due to the pressure and heat at that depth. So the plates can interact with each other at the boundaries between them. There are three main types of plate boundaries (and some sub-types): convergent [coming together], divergent [moving apart] and transform [sliding past one another].

Okay, so how has plate tectonics influenced climate over geologic time? Well, based on the positions of the landmasses being carried along by the plates, oceanic currents can be blocked or formed, mountain ranges can affect airflow in the atmosphere, and large enough landmasses over the poles can begin to ice over, eventually affecting the entire planet. Let me give you a few examples.
When the Isthmus of Panama finally connected North and South America (early Cenozoic) the oceanic current that had formerly flowed through that region was deflected to the north and south, influencing the climates of the western ...

Solution Summary

In this solution, I discuss how plate tectonics has affected Earth's climate, geography and the distribution of organisms over time.

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