Explainer: Earth’s Tectonic Plates
Click to view a larger version of the graphic.
Explainer: Earth’s Tectonic Plates
It’s widely understood that Earth’s lithosphere (or outer crust) is made up of moving slabs of rock, better known as the tectonic plates.
These plates only move a couple of inches each year. However, these tiny movements add up over time and cause some of Earth’s most well-known phenomena. Today, the Earth looks a lot different than it did millions of years ago.
This graphic by Giulia De Amicis provides a brief explanation of plate tectonic theory and shows a map of the seven major plates.
Plate Tectonic Theory
In the early 20th century, German geologist Alfred Wegener published a paper on his theory called continental drift—a hypothesis that Earth’s continents were moving across Earth, and sometimes, even colliding into one another.
According to Wegener’s theory, Earth’s continents were once joined as a single, giant landmass, which he called Pangaea. But over time, Pangaea broke apart and formed the continents as we know them today.
Wegener couldn’t explain why this phenomenon was happening, so at the time, his theory was heavily criticized by his colleagues. But over the years, technological advances allowed scientists to study the Earth more closely, and geologists started to build on Wegener’s theory.
Discoveries like seafloor spreading helped explain the “why” behind continental movement, and eventually, Wegener’s initial continental drift theory morphed into plate tectonic theory. And now, the idea that Earth’s crust is slowly moving beneath our feet is widely accepted.
The Seven Major Tectonic Plates
There are seven major plates, and dozens of minor plates, that make up the outer crust of the Earth. The big seven are:
- North American plate
- Eurasian plate
- Pacific plate
- South American plate
- African plate
- Indo-Australian plate
- Antarctic plate
The areas between these plates are known as plate boundaries, and their interactions cause some crazy things to happen on Earth’s surface. There are three types of plate boundaries:
1. Divergent boundary
A divergent boundary is when two plates move away from each other, which creates a fracture in the lithosphere.
A well-known divergent boundary is the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, which runs approximately 10,000 miles from the Arctic Ocean all the way down to the south of Africa.
2. Convergent boundary
A convergent boundary is when two plates collide with one another.
If the collision is between oceanic crust and continental crust, the denser oceanic crust slides underneath the other plate, which is a process known as subduction.
When two continental crusts collide, the rock folds and lifts at the boundary, creating mountains like the Himalayas (where the Indian plate meets the Eurasian plate).
3. Transform Boundary
When two plates move parallel to one another, their meeting point is called a transform boundary.
The friction causes tension. Eventually, that tension needs to be released, which can cause earthquakes. The San Andreas Fault is a well-known major transform boundary between the North American and Pacific plates—it caused the infamous San Francisco earthquake of 1906.
This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.
Mapped: Renewable Energy and Battery Installations in the U.S. in 2023
This graphic describes new U.S. renewable energy installations by state along with nameplate capacity, planned to come online in 2023.
Renewable and Battery Installations in the U.S. in 2023
This was originally posted on Elements. Sign up to the free mailing list to get beautiful visualizations on real assets and resource megatrends each week.
Renewable energy, in particular solar power, is set to shine in 2023. This year, the U.S. plans to get over 80% of its new energy installations from sources like battery, solar, and wind.
The above map uses data from EIA to highlight planned U.S. renewable energy and battery storage installations by state for 2023.
Texas and California Leading in Renewable Energy
Nearly every state in the U.S. has plans to produce new clean energy in 2023, but it’s not a surprise to see the two most populous states in the lead of the pack.
Even though the majority of its power comes from natural gas, Texas currently leads the U.S. in planned renewable energy installations. The state also has plans to power nearly 900,000 homes using new wind energy.
California is second, which could be partially attributable to the passing of Title 24, an energy code that makes it compulsory for new buildings to have the equipment necessary to allow the easy installation of solar panels, battery storage, and EV charging.
New solar power in the U.S. isn’t just coming from places like Texas and California. In 2023, Ohio will add 1,917 MW of new nameplate solar capacity, with Nevada and Colorado not far behind.
|Top 10 States||Battery (MW)||Solar (MW)||Wind (MW)||Total (MW)|
The state of New York is also looking to become one of the nation’s leading renewable energy providers. The New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) is making real strides towards this objective with 11% of the nation’s new wind power projects expected to come online in 2023.
According to the data, New Hampshire is the only state in the U.S. that has no new utility-scale renewable energy installations planned for 2023. However, the state does have plans for a massive hydroelectric plant that should come online in 2024.
Renewable energy is considered essential to reduce global warming and CO2 emissions.
In line with the efforts by each state to build new renewable installations, the Biden administration has set a goal of achieving a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and a net zero emissions economy by no later than 2050.
The EIA forecasts the share of U.S. electricity generation from renewable sources rising from 22% in 2022 to 23% in 2023 and to 26% in 2024.
Misc2 weeks ago
Ranked: The Cities with the Most Skyscrapers in 2023
War3 weeks ago
Map Explainer: Sudan
Urbanization2 weeks ago
Ranked: The World’s Biggest Steel Producers, by Country
Travel3 weeks ago
Visualized: The World’s Busiest Airports, by Passenger Count
Visual Capitalist1 week ago
Join Us For Data Creator Con 2023
AI3 weeks ago
Visualizing Global Attitudes Towards AI
United States1 week ago
Charted: Public Trust in the Federal Reserve
Visual Capitalist3 weeks ago
Calling All Data Storytellers to Enter our Creator Program Challenge