Plate tectonics is the science and study of causes and relative motions of earth’s lithosphere plates. This theory proposes that earth’s outer layer is made up of plates which have moved throughout earth’s history. It is the scientific theory that attempts to explain the movements of the Earth’s lithosphere that have formed the landscape features seen across the world today. The primary natural hazards facing the islands of the Caribbean are earthquakes and hurricanes.Some of the islands are also subjected to instances of volcanic activity. This essay is aimed towards outlining the theory of plate tectonics, accounting for earthquake and volcanic occurrences in the Caribbean as well as evaluating the measures implemented at the regional level to mitigate the impact of natural disasters. Plate tectonics grew out of a theory that was first developed in the early 20th century by a meteorologist, Alfred Wegener.
Wegener noticed that the coastlines of the east coast of South America and the west coast of Africa seemed to fit together like a jig-saw puzzle. Further investigations of earth revealed that some continents show matching geological sequences (rocks of similar age, type, formation, and structure). Similar plant and animal fossils as well as a number of climatic conditions anomalies existed in some continents. Therefore, a conclusion was made that all the continents were all at one time connected in a single supercontinent called a Pangaea.
The gradual drifting away of the Pangaea into seven sections namely: North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Antarctica, and Australia around 300 million years ago is known today as the continental drift. Plate tectonics is accountable for the majority of Earth’s geologic features. It is responsible for the formation of mountain ranges and the shape and position of the oceans and continents. However, these processes are tremendously time-consuming and take millions of years to produce noticeable or significant change.
In geology, the word plate means a large slab of solid rock. Tectonics” is a part of the Greek root for “to build”. A tectonic plate itself is defined as a rigid segment of the Earth’s lithosphere that moves separately from those surrounding it. The terms define how the Earth’s surface is built up of moving plates. According to the plate-tectonics theory, scientists believe that Earth’s surface is broken into a number of shifting slabs or plates, which average about 50 miles in thickness. These plates move relative to one another above a hotter, deeper, more mobile zone at average rates as great as a few inches per year.However, this motion is extremely slow due to the incredible amount of mass being moved, friction, and the high viscosity of the asthenosphere (Rahil, 2005).
Most of the world’s active volcanoes are located along or near the boundaries between shifting plates and are called plate-boundary volcanoes. A boundary is a place where tectonic plates touch. All tectonic plates share boundaries with other plates. These boundaries are however divided into three types: convergent, divergent and transform.The type of boundary depends on how the tectonic plates move relative to one another. Tectonic plates can separate, or slide past each other.
At divergent boundaries new crust is created as two or more plates pull away from each other. In contrast, at convergent boundaries, the crust is destroyed and recycled back into the interior of the Earth as one plate dives under another while at transform boundaries two plates slide horizontally past one another. Earthquakes can occur at all three types of plate boundaries.