The surface of the earth does not hold still. Continents and islands have been coming together, splitting apart, folding, sinking, rising, and rotating for millions of years. They are propelled by forces deep within the earth.
In recent years, the ability of satellites to send back photographs of the entire surface of the earth has greatly enabled geologists and other scientists to learn more about the geophysical cycles that form our planet.
Sample some of the following activities to learn more about geophysical cycles.
The following are places to go (some real and some virtual) to find out about geophysical cycles.
Travel to the Cascades Volcano Observatory to find out about Mount St. Helens.
Virtually visit a cave and discover the geological processes that form them.
Learn about the crust, the mantle, and the core of the earth.
Visit Pangaea. At Pangaea, you can step right from Brazil into Africa.
Travel to New Madrid, Missouri to learn about a series of some of the most destructive earthquakes ever recorded in North America that occurred in 1811 and 1812.
Travel to the center of the earth. It's hot there. The temperature is thought to be about 7500 degrees Kelvin which is hotter than the surface of the sun!
Krakatoa was an island between Java and Sumatra. A volcano erupted in 1883 and blew the island apart. The tsunami that the explosion generated killed 35,000 people in nearby islands. Find out what other effects that this huge explosion had on the rest of the world.
The Mid-Atlantic Ridge is a line of volcanic mountains that runs along the rift (A rift is a place where the earth's crust is spreading open and new crust is forming. It is different than a fault.) between the American and Eurasian tectonic plates. It is the longest and tallest mountain range in the world.
Travel back in time to San Francisco in 1906. Find out about the famous earthquake and fire that devastated San Francisco. Read eyewitness accounts, see actual photographs, newspaper clippings, and more.
Visit the Earth's plates virtually. Each large plate touches 3 or more other plates. None can move without affecting all of the others. Plate movements are responsible for most of the earth's volcanoes, earthquakes, high mountain ranges, and deep ocean trenches.
Visit the San Andreas Fault. Do you know where the Wasatch Fault is in Utah? Find out the latest places where those plates are moving and those faults are shifting. From this part of the USGS site, use the map of the world that shows current earthquake activity.
Earth is not the only planet with volcanoes! Virtually travel to Mars and check out Olympus Mons which is the highest volcano in the solar system. It's about 16.5 miles high which is more than four times as high as Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest volcano on earth.
Meet Alfred Wegener. He was the first to suggest that all the continents had once been one big continent. He concluded this because he found traces of tropical ferns in the Arctic. Find out more about Wegener.
You can ask your questions about plate tectonics and how they relate to volcanoes to the experts at Volcano World.
Get to know Charles Richter. He is responsible for the Richter Scale that measures the size and magnitude of an earthquake.
Geologists are scientists who study the earth. Ask them about plate tectonics.
Chat with Vulcan, the Roman god of fire. According to the ancient Romans, Vulcan caused volcanoes. He lived beneath Mt. Etna which is a large volcano on the island of Sicily.
Colorful animations from the US Geological Survey.
Find out what happens when continents collide. In some places which are called divergence zones, the plates are pulling apart. In some places called convergence zones, the plates are pushing against each other.
Investigate continental drift.
Plate tectonics explain why evidence of past glaciers can be found in deserts and why fossils of marine animals can be found in rocks far from the ocean. Find out more.
Check out the Ring of Fire. From this graphic, you can see how this ring is near the plate boundaries.
Learn about Utah mountains. Mountain building is an active and ongoing process, and mountains are continuously being formed and worn down. We have a lot of mountains in Utah--the Abajo Mountains, La Sal Mountains, Pine Valley Mountains, the Uintah Mountains, and many more.
Find out about Utah's earthquake threat and Utah's active faults.
Plate tectonic processes cause volcanoes, earthquakes, and the formation of new land.
Check out the excellent lesson activities from Volcano World about plate tectonics and the layers of the earth.
- Clark, John Owen Edward. Earthquakes to Volcanoes. New York: Gloucester Press, 1992.
- Drohan, Michele Ingber. Earthquakes. New York: PowerKids Press, c1999.
- Farndon, John. How the Earth Works. Readers Digest: Pleasantville, New York, 1992.
- Green, Jen. Volcanoes. Brookfield, Conn.: Copper Beech Books, 1998.
- Murray, Peter. Earthquakes. Chanhassen, MN: Child's World, c1999.
- Pipes, Rose. Mountains and Volcanoes. Austin, Tex.: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, c1998.
- Sattler, Helen Roney. Our Patchwork Planet: The Story of Plate Tectonics. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, c1995.
- Silverstein, Alvin. Plate Tectonics. Brookfield, Conn.: Twenty-First Century Books, 1998