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Dynamic landscapes are the features of land caused by the movement of tectonic plates (the sections that divide the Earth’s outer shell). The topic of dynamic landscapes also covers tectonic hazards, their causes, examples, trends and patterns.

The landscapes are dynamic because of mantle convection, subduction and slab pull which move the tectonic plates.

Types of dynamic landscapes

The different types of dynamic landscapes depend on the type of plate boundary.

Rift valleys and ocean ridges

Rift valleys and ocean ridges are formed at divergent plate boundaries (also known as constructive plate boundaries), where the plates are moving away from each other.

As the tectonic plates move away from each other, magma rises from the gap and hardens. When this occurs in oceanic plates, it is called seafloor spreading, and it forms ocean ridges. Due to the movement of the tectonic plates, the newly formed crusts continues to move away from each other. When continental plates move away from each other, they form rift valleys.

Dynamic Landscapes Rift Valley StudySmarterJordan Rift Valley, Israel. Photo: Zairon. CC BY-SA 4

Triple junctions are where three divergent plates are moving away from each other at an angle of 120 degrees. A good example is the Afar region in northern Ethiopia, where the African, Arabian, and Indian plates are moving away from each other.

Island arcs and oceanic trenches

Island arcs and oceanic trenches are often created at convergent plate boundaries where an oceanic crust meets with another oceanic crust.

Island arcs are created due to the subduction of one of the oceanic plates, which leads to the formation of volcanoes. The lava and debris from the volcanoes accumulates and eventually, the volcanoes grow above sea level. An island arc is a long chain of these volcanoes. An example is the Ring of Fire.

Dynamic Landscapes Volcano StudySmarterVolcano, pixabay.com

Ocean trenches are long, narrow valleys in the sea formed as the denser oceanic plate is pushed below the continental plate.

Mountain ranges

Mountain ranges are formed at convergent plate margins where either two continental tectonic plates or continental and oceanic tectonic plates collide. Due to compressional forces, the sedimentary rocks are pushed upwards, causing either one or both plates to buckle up and form mountain ranges. An example is the relatively young Himalayas (formed within the last 100 million years or less).

Dynamic Landscapes Himalayas StudySmarterHimalayas, pixabay.com

Fault valleys and undersea canyons

The regions where plates are sliding past each other horizontally are called conservative plate boundaries or transform plate boundaries. The rocks from the plates are pulverised and often create fault valleys (continental and continental plates) or undersea canyons (oceanic and oceanic plates).

Dynamic Landscapes Undersea Canyon StudySmarterNazaré Canyon

Natural hazards and dynamic landscapes

Tectonic plates are always either moving against, apart or past each other. Tectonic hazards are threats caused by the movement of tectonic plates that have the potential to cause damage to life, property, the environment, human activity and the economy. These hazards include earthquakes, explosions of volcanoes and tsunamis.

Impact of tectonic hazards

Natural disasters are a consequence of natural hazards. A natural hazard is considered a disaster when it has exceeded a given threshold, meaning it has caused significant damage to society or a community, and they can no longer cope using their own resources. Significant damage includes disruptions to human, material or environmental aspects such as loss of life, injuries, and damage to infrastructure.

Hazards can have social, economic and environmental impacts on society. These include loss of life, injuries, damage to infrastructure, businesses and the ecosystem.

Examples of tectonic hazards caused by dynamic landscapes

The example case studies of tectonic hazards that we will go through with you include:

The Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

The Gorkha earthquake.

Mount Merapi eruption (2010).

Tectonic disaster trends and patterns

Unlike other natural hazards, the trend of tectonic hazards has not changed over the years. The number of deaths caused by tectonic disasters varies significantly each year as they depend on megadisasters. Economic losses from tectonic disasters are increasing as people are becoming more affluent. Volcanic hazards are not as frequent compared to earthquakes, and the number of deaths is significantly lower.

Tectonic hazard forecasting involves calculating the probability of a hazard occurring in a specific location by monitoring seismic activity and historical information. This knowledge allows governments to prepare. However, accurate tectonic hazard prediction – knowing exactly when and where a hazard will happen – is not possible at the moment. Scientists are working on trying to make it possible by observing magma movement.

Tectonic hazard management involves reducing the number and scale of systemic weaknesses. This includes, for instance, reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience through educating communities on preparation for disasters.

It is not possible to carry out direct tectonic hazard modifications as their forces are too powerful. Realistic modifications could include strengthening infrastructures such as building earthquake-resistant buildings, sea walls and mangroves against tsunamis, and building barriers against lava flow.

Dynamic Landscapes - Key takeaways

  • Dynamics landscapes are the features of land caused by the movement of tectonic plates (the sections that divide the Earth’s outer shell).
  • Rift valleys and ocean ridges are formed at divergent plate boundaries.
  • Island arcs and oceanic trenches are often created at convergent plate boundaries where an oceanic crust meets with another oceanic crust.
  • Mountain ranges are formed at convergent plate margins where two continental plates or continental and oceanic tectonic plates collide.
  • Conservative plate boundaries or transform plate boundaries form fault valleys or undersea canyons.
  • Tectonic hazards are threats caused by the movement of tectonic plates and include earthquakes, explosions by volcanoes, and tsunamis.
  • The trend of tectonic hazards has not changed over the years.
  • Tectonic hazard forecasting involves calculating the probability of a hazard occurring in a specific location by monitoring seismic activity and historical information. Tectonic hazard prediction is knowing when and where a hazard is likely to happen.
  • Tectonic hazard management comprises reducing the number and scale of systemic weaknesses.
  • Realistic modifications include strengthening infrastructures such as building earthquake-resistant buildings, sea walls and mangroves against tsunamis, and barriers against lava flow.

Frequently Asked Questions about Dynamic Landscapes

The different types of dynamic landscapes include; rift valleys, ocean ridges, island arcs, oceanic trenches, mountain ranges, fault valleys and undersea canyons.

Dynamics Landscapes are the features of land caused by the movement of tectonic plates.

Final Dynamic Landscapes Quiz

Question

What are tectonic plates?

Show answer

Answer

Tectonic plates are the sections of the lithosphere.

Show question

Question

What are some examples of tectonic hazards?


Show answer

Answer

Examples of tectonic hazards include volcanic activities, earthquakes and tsunamis.

Show question

Question

What is continental drift?


Show answer

Answer

Continental drift is the movement of the continents of Earth after the separation from Pangaea, one large continent.

Show question

Question

Why was the theory of plate tectonics proposed?


Show answer

Answer

The theory of plate tectonics was proposed when the outline of tectonic plates was found in 1960 after seismographs were used to test for atomic bombs during World War II. This recorded the vibrations of earthquakes which allowed them to discover the epicentres of the earthquakes.

Show question

Question

What is seafloor spreading?


Show answer

Answer

Seafloor spreading is when magma fills the gap with rock as the tectonic plates move apart.

Show question

Question

How does palaeomagnetism explain seafloor spreading?


Show answer

Answer

Palaeomagnetism explains seafloor spreading because scientists found that some of the rocks in the ocean ground have magnetic signatures in opposite directions to the rocks next to them. This indicates that the new magnetic alignment is the magma that fills in between tectonic plates.

Show question

Question

What is mantle convection?


Show answer

Answer

Mantle convection is the movement of magma due to its variation in temperature and density, which also causes the tectonic plates to move.

Show question

Question

What is subduction?


Show answer

Answer

Subduction is when the denser tectonic plate is pushed underneath the other plate.

Show question

Question

What is slab pull?


Show answer

Answer

Slab pull is the gravitational pull that causes the denser plate to further move after subduction.

Show question

Question

What are the different layers within the structure of Earth?


Show answer

Answer

The different layers within the Earth are the crust, mantle, outer core and inner core.

Show question

Question

How many major tectonic plates are there?


Show answer

Answer

There are seven major tectonic plates.

Show question

Question

What are some named examples of tectonic plates?


Show answer

Answer

Examples of tectonic plates are the African, Antarctic, Eurasian, Indo-Australian, North American, Pacific and South American tectonic plates.

Show question

Question

What is the continental crust made of?


Show answer

Answer

The continental crust is made of granite rock that comprises quartz, feldspar, and other relatively lightweight material, mostly silicon and aluminium.

Show question

Question

What is the oceanic crust made of?


Show answer

Answer

The oceanic crust is made of basaltic rock and other materials predominantly of silicon and magnesium.

Show question

Question

How do tectonic plates float on the mantle?


Show answer

Answer

Tectonic plates float on the mantle due to the composition of the rocks within the plates that make them less dense than the mantle.

Show question

Question

What are tectonic processes?

Show answer

Answer

Tectonic processes are interactions between tectonic plates that impact the structure of the Earth’s crust.

Show question

Question

Why do tectonic processes occur?


Show answer

Answer

Tectonic processes occur due to the movement of tectonic plates relative to each other. The cause of the movement of tectonic plates can be summarised by mantle convection, subduction and slab pull.

Show question

Question

What occurs at divergent plate boundaries?


Show answer

Answer

At divergent plate boundaries (also known as constructive plate boundaries), the plates are moving away from each other. This occurs as the convection current of the mantle pushes the plates apart, generating a gap in between, causing magma to fill the gap and producing a new crust.

Show question

Question

What are the consequences of divergent plate boundaries?


Show answer

Answer

Most are located at ocean ridges and generate low magnitude earthquakes. Divergent boundaries between continental plates often form rift valleys.

Show question

Question

What occurs at convergent plate boundaries?


Show answer

Answer

Convergent/destructive plate boundaries are where plates are moving towards each other. When an oceanic crust and a continental crust meet, the denser oceanic crust is pushed below the continental crust (also known as subduction). The oceanic crust underneath is destroyed in the process. When continental plates collide, it can also cause either one or both of the plates to buckle up.

Show question

Question

What are the consequences of convergent plate boundaries?


Show answer

Answer

When an oceanic crust meets with another oceanic crust, subduction also occurs. Island arcs and oceanic trenches are often created. When continental plates collide, it can also cause either one or both of the plates to buckle up, consequently forming mountain ranges.

Show question

Question

What occurs at conservative plate boundaries?


Show answer

Answer

The regions where plates are sliding past each other in the horizontal direction are called the conservative plate boundaries or transform plate boundaries. Due to the irregularity of the surface of the plates caused by rocks, the friction and pressure build-up and the plates eventually slide past each other, causing frequent earthquakes.

Show question

Question

What are the consequences of conservative plate boundaries?


Show answer

Answer

The rocks from the plates are pulverised and often create fault valleys or undersea canyons.

Show question

Question

What are the impacts of tectonic plate movement?


Show answer

Answer

The movement of tectonic plates relative to each other leads to tectonic processes, which are interactions between tectonic plates that impact the structure of the Earth’s crust. Tectonic processes can lead to tectonic hazards.

Show question

Question

What are tectonic plates?

Show answer

Answer

Tectonic plates are the sections of the lithosphere.

Show question

Question

What are some examples of tectonic hazards?


Show answer

Answer

Examples of tectonic hazards include volcanic activities, earthquakes and tsunamis.

Show question

Question

What is continental drift?


Show answer

Answer

Continental drift is the movement of the continents of Earth after the separation from Pangaea, one large continent.

Show question

Question

Why was the theory of plate tectonics proposed?


Show answer

Answer

The theory of plate tectonics was proposed when the outline of tectonic plates was found in 1960 after seismographs were used to test for atomic bombs during World War II. This recorded the vibrations of earthquakes which allowed them to discover the epicentres of the earthquakes.

Show question

Question

What is seafloor spreading?


Show answer

Answer

Seafloor spreading is when magma fills the gap with rock as the tectonic plates move apart.

Show question

Question

How does palaeomagnetism explain seafloor spreading?


Show answer

Answer

Palaeomagnetism explains seafloor spreading because scientists found that some of the rocks in the ocean ground have magnetic signatures in opposite directions to the rocks next to them. This indicates that the new magnetic alignment is the magma that fills in between tectonic plates.

Show question

Question

What is mantle convection?


Show answer

Answer

Mantle convection is the movement of magma due to its variation in temperature and density, which also causes the tectonic plates to move.

Show question

Question

What is subduction?

Show answer

Answer

Subduction is when the denser tectonic plate is pushed underneath the other plate.

Show question

Question

What is slab pull?


Show answer

Answer

Slab pull is the gravitational pull that causes the denser plate to further move after subduction.

Show question

Question

What are the different layers within the structure of Earth?


Show answer

Answer

The different layers within the Earth are the crust, mantle, outer core and inner core.

Show question

Question

How many major tectonic plates are there?


Show answer

Answer

There are seven major tectonic plates.

Show question

Question

What are some named examples of tectonic plates?


Show answer

Answer

Examples of tectonic plates are the African, Antarctic, Eurasian, Indo-Australian, North American, Pacific and South American tectonic plates.

Show question

Question

What is the continental crust made of?


Show answer

Answer

The continental crust is made of granite rock that comprises quartz, feldspar, and other relatively lightweight material, mostly silicon and aluminium.

Show question

Question

What is the oceanic crust made of?


Show answer

Answer

The oceanic crust is made of basaltic rock and other materials, predominantly silicon and magnesium.

Show question

Question

How do tectonic plates float on the mantle?


Show answer

Answer

Tectonic plates float on the mantle due to the composition of the rocks within the plates that make them less dense than the mantle.

Show question

Question

What are tectonic processes?


Show answer

Answer

Tectonic processes are interactions between tectonic plates that impact the structure of the Earth’s crust.

Show question

Question

Why do tectonic processes occur?


Show answer

Answer

Tectonic processes occur due to the movement of tectonic plates relative to each other. The cause of the movement of tectonic plates can be summarised by mantle convection, subduction and slab pull.

Show question

Question

What occurs at divergent plate boundaries?


Show answer

Answer

At divergent plate boundaries (also known as constructive plate boundaries), the plates are moving away from each other. This occurs as the convection current of the mantle pushes the plates apart, generating a gap in between, causing magma to fill the gap and producing a new crust.

Show question

Question

What are the consequences of divergent plate boundaries?


Show answer

Answer

Most are located at ocean ridges and generate low magnitude earthquakes. Divergent boundaries between continental plates often form rift valleys.

Show question

Question

What occurs at convergent plate boundaries?


Show answer

Answer

Convergent/destructive plate boundaries are where plates are moving towards each other. When an oceanic crust and a continental crust meet, the denser oceanic crust is pushed below the continental crust (also known as subduction). The oceanic crust underneath is destroyed in the process. When continental plates collide, it can also cause either one or both of the plates to buckle up.

Show question

Question

What are the consequences of convergent plate boundaries?

Show answer

Answer

When an oceanic crust meets with another oceanic crust, subduction also occurs. Island arcs and oceanic trenches are often created. When continental plates collide, it can also cause either one or both of the plates to buckle up, consequently forming mountain ranges.

Show question

Question

What occurs at conservative plate boundaries?


Show answer

Answer

The regions where plates are sliding past each other in the horizontal direction are called the conservative plate boundaries or transform plate boundaries. Due to the irregularity of the surface of the plates caused by rocks, the friction and pressure build-up and the plates eventually slide past each other, causing frequent earthquakes.

Show question

Question

What are the consequences of conservative plate boundaries?


Show answer

Answer

The rocks from the plates are pulverised and often create fault valleys or undersea canyons.

Show question

Question

What are the impacts of tectonic plate movement?

Show answer

Answer

The movement of tectonic plates relative to each other leads to tectonic processes, which are interactions between tectonic plates that impact the structure of the Earth’s crust. Tectonic processes can lead to tectonic hazards.

Show question

Question

What are natural disasters?


Show answer

Answer

A natural disaster is when a natural hazard has exceeded a given threshold meaning it has caused significant damage to society or a community and they can no longer cope using their own resources. This includes disruptions to human, material or environmental aspects, such as loss of life, injuries and damage to infrastructure.

Show question

Question

What are some examples of natural disasters?


Show answer

Answer

Examples of natural disasters include earthquakes, volcanic activity, extreme heat, floods, wildfires, tsunamis and hurricanes.

Show question

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