Plate Tectonics

How do Plate Tectonics Work?

Plate tectonics is the study of movement of Earth's plates, called tectonic plates, that result in geologic activities. The information below explains the theory of plate tectonics. To understand how plate tectonics work, you need to know the Earth's basic structure. See Layers of the Earth to learn about the Earth's crust, mantle and the core.

How do tectonic plates move?

Below are the diagrams to illustrate how tectonic plates move.

  1. Tectonic plates can slide past one another
  2. Tectonic plates can move apart, or
  3. Tectonic plates can crush together

How do Plate Tectonics Work

The movements of tectonic plates lead to the classifications of tectonic plate boundaries; divergent, convergent and transform. See Types of Plate Boundaries for more information on these classifications.

Movements of Tectonic Plates

Over time, these tectonic plates move and when they most they can set off earthquakes, form mountains or seafloor, volcanoes and islands.

The theory of plate tectonics divides the superficial regions of the earth into two layers called the lithosphere and the asthenosphere. The lithosphere is the outermost layer of the earth and the asthenosphere is below it.