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A World Without Plate Tectonics

To understand the impact on the world without Plate tectonics, an understanding of what Plate tectonics is and how its existence impacts the planet must come first. According to the United States Geological Survey [USGS] (2017) “Plate Tectonics is the theory supported by a wide range of evidence that considers the earth's crust and upper mantle to be composed of several large, thin, relatively rigid plates that move relative to one another.” The USGS (2017) continue to explain that “slip on faults that define the plate boundaries commonly results in earthquakes.” Additionally, “several styles of faults bound the plates, including thrust faults along which plate material is subducted or consumed in the mantle, oceanic spreading ridges along which new crustal material is produced, and transform faults that accommodate horizontal slip (strike-slip) between adjoining plates” (USGS, 2017).

Authored by Doc Comeau on Saturday, July 18th, 2021 at 8:30 AM EST

Photo From National Parks Gallery

Plate Movement

According to Mark Cloos (2005) in an article published in the World Book Encyclopedia “the plates move about on a layer of rock that is so hot it flows, even though it remains solid” (p.561). In his article, he discusses the fact that “the plates are moving very slowly relative to one another; at speeds up to about 10 centimeters (cm) or about 4 inches (in) per year” (Cloos, 2005. P. 561). According to Cloos (2005) “plates have been moving about for hundreds of millions of years” and “plate movement has changed the map of the earth drastically” over the millennia (p. 561). Cloos (2005) states “earth scientists had determined that before two hundred million years ago, all continent were part of a supercontinent called Pangaea” (p. 561). This movement causes a variety of effects experienced in different regions around the globe. One of these results is the creation of earthquakes.

Earthquakes Effects on Earth

According to the USGS (2017) “the Ring of Fire, also called the Circum-Pacific belt, is the zone of earthquakes surrounding the Pacific Ocean.” The USGS (2017) state “about 90% of the world's earthquakes occur there.” Earthquakes have a variety of impacts on the Earth. For example, according to Gretchen Cook-Anderson and Dolores Beasley (2005) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration [NASA] “on December 25, 2004, Indonesia experienced a megathrust earthquake” that had a noticeable and lasting impact on the planet. NASA’s specialists explain that this “devastating megathrust earthquake registered nine on the new “moment” scale a modified Richter scale, making it the fourth largest quake in one hundred years” (Cook-Anderson, 2005). NASA continues to explain that a study showed this earthquake “shifted the mean North pole by about 2.5 centimeters or one inch in the direction of 145 degrees East Longitude” and “decreased the length of the day by 2.68 microseconds” (Cook-Anderson, 2005).


According to the USGS Earthquake Hazard Program, “an earthquake is what happens when two blocks of the earth suddenly slip past one another” (Wald, 2017). The USGS Earthquake Hazard Program also explains that “the surface where they slip is called the fault or fault plane” (Wald, 2017). The USGS Earthquake Hazard Program continues to explain that “the location below the earth’s surface where the earthquake starts is called the hypocenter, and the location directly above it on the surface of the earth is called the epicenter” (Wald, 2017). Additionally, USGS Earthquake Hazard Program that “sometimes an earthquake has foreshocks” which “are smaller earthquakes that happen in the same place as the larger earthquake that follows” (Wald, 2017).

Earth Without Earthquakes

Without Plate Tectonics earthquakes would not occur and the surface of the planet would look drastically different. Shocks are responsible for the creation of new land, and without them, no new ground would form on the surface of any planet that did not already contain area above water level. We discussed earlier that “earth scientists had determined that before two hundred million years ago, all continent was part of a supercontinent called Pangaea” (Cloos, 2005. P. 561). That means if Pangaea existed above water on earth before or without Plate tectonics it would still exist today. The world may not even be inhabitable for our form of life without this process. Plate tectonics is a relatively new science, but essential science.


Plate Tectonics. (2017). The United States Geological Survey. Retrieved from

Cloos, M. (2005). Plate Tectonics. The World Book Encyclopedia, Vol P, Pages 561-565. Print.

Ring of Fire. (2017). The United States Geological Survey. Retrieved from

Cook-Anderson, G. and Beasley, D. (2005). NASA Details Earthquake Effects on Earth.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Retrieved from

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