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Tectonic Plates

How does the motion of the tectonic plates affect the climate?
How does the motion of the tectonic plates affect the geography?
How does the motion of the tectonic plates affect the distribution of organisms?

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How does the motion of the tectonic plates affect the climate?

Plate tectonics cause two important evens that can affect climate change: Firstly, they can transport land to higher or lower latitudes and, secondly, they can generate volcanic activity. Plate tectonics cause the movement of the earth's crust, changing the location of the subaerial continents and affecting the spatial heterogeneity of landmass. This subsequently can affect earth's energy balance, by altering albedos and the thermal properties of the land versus the ocean (Molnar and England, 1990). For instance, surface albedos over open (ice free) ocean are typically much lower than albedos over land. Therefore, if there is a global change in latitudinal distribution of land, the average net radiation balance would be modified (Molnar and England, 1990). Another example of how plate tectonics can affect albedo is if continents are mostly moved to higher latitudes. Extreme seasonality associated with large continents, especially those moved to cooler latitudes, also affects the potential for widespread glaciation. Therefore, this could elicit more glacier cover over land, resulting in a higher overall albedo and eventually cooler temperatures.

Plate tectonic movement also has the ability to affect continentality. In the past, convergence of major continental plats formed many supercontinents, such as Pangea, Gondwana, and Laurasia. Enhanced continentality causes more extreme seasonal temperature swings and increases aridity in the continental interiors (DeConto, 1999). It also has the potential to invigorate monsoonal circulations in coastal areas. Arid continental interiors would occur because atmospheric water vapour would be lost to precipitation near continental margins and because high summer temperatures would increase evaportation (DeConto, 1999). Therefore, plate tectonics can affect climate by altering the global atmospheric circulation. The evolving zonal distribution of land has important climatic consequences on the Walker circulation (DeConto, 1999). The Walker Distribution is driven by longitudinal distribution of diabatic ...

Solution Summary

The following posting answers various questions regarding tectonic plates. Concepts discussed include climate, geography and the distribution of organisms.