Why Continents Are High

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Published on 29 Jul 2022, 15:21
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Lots of geological forces need to come together for continents to form, but they all require one ingredient: water.

LEARN MORE
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To learn more about this topic, start your googling with these keywords:
- Tectonic plate: Earth’s rigid outer layer is broken up into a bunch of pieces, called tectonic plates. Usually people think of tectonic plates as the Earth’s crust, but the plates are actually made of the crust PLUS the very top of the mantle, which is cool enough to be rigid and hard and stuck to the crust. The crust and the top of the mantle together are called the “lithosphere.” Underneath that is a part of the mantle called the “asthenosphere,” which is the part that oozes and flows.
- Subduction Zone: The area where two tectonic plates collide and the denser of the two is forced under and dives down into Earth’s mantle.
- Mariana Trench: The subduction zone where the Pacific Plate slides under the Philippine Plate. The edge of the Philippine plate is kind of pulled down in the process, creating a deep crevice in Earth’s surface, known as a deep ocean trench. The Mariana Trench is the deepest ocean trench in the world.
- Granite: A type of igneous rock formed when magma cools slowly underground (creating relatively large crystals). Granite is different from other igneous rocks like basalt because it has a higher percentage of low-density minerals like quartz and feldspar.
- Oceanic-Continental Convergent Plate Boundary: The boundary between a tectonic plate made of oceanic lithosphere and a tectonic plate made of continental lithosphere. At these “convergent” plate boundaries, the two plates are colliding, and the oceanic plate is forced to subduct, or sink, under the continental plate.
- Ring of Fire: A long stretch around the Pacific Ocean where plates are colliding. The majority of volcanoes and earthquakes in the world take place along the Ring of Fire.
- Silicate minerals: These are the low-density minerals like quartz and feldspar. They contain SiO2. Because silicate minerals are thick/viscous when melted, magma with lots of silica in it forms very explosive volcanoes, like Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Tambora.

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REFERENCES
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Collins, W.J, et al. (2020). Critical role of water in the formation of continental crust. Nature Geoscience 13, 331–338. Retrieved from: nature.com/articles/s41561-020...

Collins, W.J. (2022) Personal communication.

Supercontinent History: wikiwand.com/en/Supercontinent...

Continental Record and Formation of Continental Crust: pubs.geoscienceworld.org/gsa/g...

Continental Crust book chapter: geosci.uchicago.edu/~archer/de...
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