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Plate Tectonic Motion Calculators

There are several on-line plate motion calculators that allow you to calculate the speed and direction of a location on a tectonic plate (scroll down this page). For these calculations you will need the latitude and longitude of a given location. In some cases the location will need to be in decimal degrees. If you don’t know the latitude and longitude of a location you can determine this from paper maps or go online.

1). You can use Terraserver to zoom in on a location (with satellite imagery) and a box shows the coordinates of the cursor in decimal degrees and in degrees, minutes, seconds.

2). In Kentucky, you can use the Geoportal at the Kentucky Geological Survey to find a location. On the map server you can use the zoom in tool (magnifying glass with a plus sign) to find a location, or use the pull-down menus with the zoom to location option (note the default is counties, but if you pull down the menu a large selection of pre-selected options is available). Once you have found the location you are interested in, select the “show coordinates at a point” tool from the tool menu (it’s the blue arrow pointing to a yellow dot) and the coordinates of your cursor will pop up in 1) geographic in decimal degrees, 2) geographic in degrees, minutes, seconds as well as in other coordinate systems. If pop ups are automatically blocked on your computer there is an option to temporarily allow pop ups at the top of the view screen when the pop up is blocked.

3) In Kentucky, you can also find locations and other information as in (2) on a geologic map base at the Geologic Map Service of the Kentucky Geological Survey.

Plate Motion Calculators

Plate Motion Calculator, UNAVCO, a non-profit, membership-governed consortium. This page calculates the speed and direction any spot on a tectonic plate and the direction it is moving. Although it looks technical, there is good supporting documentation and for a simple answer you only have to input a latitude and longitude in degrees, minutes, and seconds or in decimal degrees, then skip the rest of the input parameters and submit. The output answer is in speed (mm/yr) and azimuth in degrees. If you fill in a site name (your city, school, etc. it will appear on the output.

Plate Motion Calculator, Rice University. This page calculates the speed and direction of any spot on a tectonic plate. Speed or rate is calculated in mm/yr and the direction is calculated as azimuth in cw from north, which is degrees from north; example 1: -60, is 360-60=300 or west to northwest; example 2: +60 = 0+60=60 or northeast to east. You need to input a latitude and longitude in decimal degrees.

For more about Plate Tectonics (some links with lesson plans)
Go to Tectonic Plates Through Time for reconstructions of the Earth's surface and moving plates through time.
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