Plate Tectonics Web Sites

The Dynamic Earth, U.S. Geological Survey. On-line version of the U.S. Geologic Survey's publication on plate tectonics, with excellent graphics and discussion of the theory of plate tectonics.  Contains all the text from the original book with chapters and images about the theory of plate tectonics, plate motions, ridges and trenches, and effects on people.

Ocean Research Institute, University of Tokyo. Do you want to know how fast and in what direction your class is moving? If you know the approximate latitude and longitude of your city, you can input the numbers into the Plate Motion Function, and this site will calculate the direction and speed the plate you are on is moving! Kentucky is on the North American plate between latitudes 37 and 39 and longitudes -82 and -89.

Surfing for Earthquakes and Volcanoes. Lesson plan for grades 6-8, developed at UC-Berkeley, in which students use the Internet to research volcanoes and earthquakes, and then plot their locations to map plate boundaries.

Volcano World. Provides numerous images and information on plate tectonics and the relation between plate tectonics and volcanoes. VW is a higher education, k-12, and public outreach project of the Oregon Space Grant Consortium administered through the Department of Geosciences at Oregon State University.

The Nevada Seismological Lab, University of Nevada, Reno. Provides numerous images of plate tectonics and explanations about the relation between plate tectonics and earthquakes.

National Earthquake Information Center. U.S. Geological Survey. Provides information and images about the relationship between plate tectonics and earthquakes.

U.S. Geological Survey’s Adventures in the Learning Web provides teaching packets, posters, booklets, and fact sheets on a wide variety of tectonics subjects. If you have an Apple computer you should visit the section on Geologic Animations and Paper Models, in which there are several earthquake and volcano models, an animation of sea floor spreading and ocean trenches, and instructions on making your own tectonic globes that can be used with Apple’s Hypercard if you’re a Mac user.

K–12 Earth Science On-Line Classroom Activities, Society of Sedimentary Geologists. This site is the on-line version of the society’s popular educational publication that has several lesson for K–12 teachers including Shake, Rattle and Roll, Modeling an Explosive Volcano, Seafloor Spreading, and Plate Tectonics and Climate Change.

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.



Last Modified on 2020-07-06
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