Are Earth's tectonic plates fixed?

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Allan Scahill

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Are Earth's tectonic plates fixed?
« on: 07/03/2009 13:30:01 »
Allan Scahill asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Hi:
I would like to know if the Earth's tectonic plates are "fixed" and by that I mean by number, not by movement?

What would be the ramifications for earth, if a large plate were to split into two?

Thanks

Allan Scahill

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Offline Bass

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Are Earth's tectonic plates fixed?
« Reply #1 on: 07/03/2009 17:00:44 »
The number of tectonic plates have changed throughout geologic time- either through consolidation or splitting apart.  As for a modern analogues- the Indian tectonic plate is colliding with, and is being consolidated with the Asian plate.  The Red Sea and African rift valley are areas where continents are splitting apart.

As to the consequences- not much in terms of human lifespans- these processes take millions of years.  Geologically- an increase in continental volcanism, climate change (from change in geography as well as possible aerosols), possible sea level changes, and new ecological/biological niches.

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Offline Gigacore

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Are Earth's tectonic plates fixed?
« Reply #2 on: 08/03/2009 17:47:11 »
^ I agree with the above reply.. It takes thousand or maybe millions of years for the tectonic plates to move from one place to another..