South American Plate

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South American Plate
Type Major
Approximate area43,600,000 km2 (16,800,000 sq mi) [1]
Speed127–34 mm (1.1–1.3 in)/year
Features South America, Atlantic Ocean
1Relative to the African Plate

The South American Plate is a major tectonic plate which includes the continent of South America as well as a sizable region of the Atlantic Ocean seabed extending eastward to the African Plate, with which it forms the southern part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge.

The easterly edge is a divergent boundary with the African Plate; the southerly edge is a complex boundary with the Antarctic Plate, the Scotia Plate, and the Sandwich Plate; the westerly edge is a convergent boundary with the subducting Nazca Plate; and the northerly edge is a boundary with the Caribbean Plate and the oceanic crust of the North American Plate. At the Chile Triple Junction, near the west coast of the TaitaoTres Montes Peninsula, an oceanic ridge known as the Chile Rise is actively subducting under the South American Plate.

Geological research suggests that the South American Plate is moving westward away from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge: "Parts of the plate boundaries consisting of alternations of relatively short transform fault and spreading ridge segments are represented by a boundary following the general trend." [2] As a result, the eastward-moving and more dense Nazca Plate is subducting under the western edge of the South American Plate, along the continent's Pacific coast, at a rate of 77 mm (3.0 in) per year. [3] The collision of these two plates is responsible for lifting the massive Andes Mountains and for creating the numerous volcanoes which are strewn throughout them. [4] [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

Subduction A geological process at convergent tectonic plate boundaries where one plate moves under the other

Subduction is a geological process that takes place at convergent boundaries of tectonic plates where one plate moves under another and is forced to sink due to high gravitational potential energy into the mantle. Regions where this process occurs are known as subduction zones. Rates of subduction are typically measured in centimeters per year, with the average rate of convergence being approximately two to eight centimeters per year along most plate boundaries.

Transform fault plate boundary where the motion is predominantly horizontal

A transform fault or transform boundary is a fault along a plate boundary where the motion is predominantly horizontal. It ends abruptly where it connects to another plate boundary, either another transform, a spreading ridge, or a subduction zone.

Convergent boundary Region of active deformation between colliding lithospheric plates

A convergent boundary is an area on Earth where two or more lithospheric plates collide. One plate eventually slides beneath the other causing a process known as subduction. The subduction zone can be defined by a plane where many earthquakes occur, called the Benioff Zone. These collisions happen on scales of millions to tens of millions of years and can lead to volcanism, earthquakes, orogenesis, destruction of lithosphere, and deformation. Convergent boundaries occur between oceanic-oceanic lithosphere, oceanic-continental lithosphere, and continental-continental lithosphere. The geologic features related to convergent boundaries vary depending on crust types.

North American Plate Large tectonic plate including most of North America, Greenland and a bit of Siberia.

The North American Plate is a tectonic plate covering most of North America, Greenland, Cuba, the Bahamas, extreme northeastern Asia, and parts of Iceland and the Azores. With an area of 76 million km2 (29 million sq mi), it is the Earth's second largest tectonic plate, behind the Pacific Plate.

Nazca Plate Oceanic tectonic plate in the eastern Pacific Ocean basin

The Nazca Plate, or Nasca Plate, named after the Nazca region of southern Peru, is an oceanic tectonic plate in the eastern Pacific Ocean basin off the west coast of South America. The ongoing subduction, along the Peru–Chile Trench, of the Nazca Plate under the South American Plate is largely responsible for the Andean orogeny. The Nazca Plate is bounded on the west by the Pacific Plate and to the south by the Antarctic Plate through the East Pacific Rise and the Chile Rise respectively. The movement of the Nazca Plate over several hotspots has created some volcanic islands as well as east-west running seamount chains that subduct under South America. Nazca is a relatively young plate both in terms of the age of its rocks and its existence as an independent plate having been formed from the break-up of the Farallon Plate about 23 million years ago. The oldest rocks of the plate are about 50 million years old.

Antarctic Plate A tectonic plate containing the continent of Antarctica and extending outward under the surrounding oceans

The Antarctic Plate is a tectonic plate containing the continent of Antarctica, the Kerguelen Plateau and extending outward under the surrounding oceans. After breakup from Gondwana, the Antarctic plate began moving the continent of Antarctica south to its present isolated location causing the continent to develop a much colder climate. The Antarctic Plate is bounded almost entirely by extensional mid-ocean ridge systems. The adjoining plates are the Nazca Plate, the South American Plate, the African Plate, the Somali Plate, the Indo-Australian Plate, the Pacific Plate, and, across a transform boundary, the Scotia Plate.

Pacific Plate An oceanic tectonic plate under the Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Plate is an oceanic tectonic plate that lies beneath the Pacific Ocean. At 103 million km2 (40 million sq mi), it is the largest tectonic plate.

Cocos Plate young oceanic tectonic plate beneath the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Central America

The Cocos Plate is a young oceanic tectonic plate beneath the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of Central America, named for Cocos Island, which rides upon it. The Cocos Plate was created approximately 23 million years ago when the Farallon Plate broke into two pieces, which also created the Nazca Plate. The Cocos Plate also broke into two pieces, creating the small Rivera Plate. The Cocos Plate is bounded by several different plates. To the northeast it is bounded by the North American Plate and the Caribbean Plate. To the west it is bounded by the Pacific Plate and to the south by the Nazca Plate.

The Peru–Chile Trench, also known as the Atacama Trench, is an oceanic trench in the eastern Pacific Ocean, about 160 kilometres (100 mi) off the coast of Peru and Chile. It reaches a maximum depth of 8,065 m (26,460 ft) below sea level in Richards Deep and is approximately 5,900 km (3,700 mi) long; its mean width is 64 km (40 mi) and it covers an expanse of some 590,000 km2 (230,000 sq mi).

Australian Plate A major tectonic plate, originally a part of the ancient continent of Gondwana

The Australian Plate is a major tectonic plate in the eastern and, largely, southern hemispheres. Originally a part of the ancient continent of Gondwana, Australia remained connected to India and Antarctica until approximately 100 million years ago when India broke away and began moving north. Australia and Antarctica began rifting 85 million years ago and completely separated roughly 45 million years ago. The Australian plate later fused with the adjacent Indian Plate beneath the Indian Ocean to form a single Indo-Australian Plate. However, recent studies suggest that the two plates have once again split apart and have been separate plates for at least 3 million years and likely longer. The Australian Plate includes the continent of Australia, including Tasmania, as well portions of New Guinea, New Zealand, and the Indian Ocean basin.

East Pacific Rise A mid-oceanic ridge at a divergent tectonic plate boundary on the floor of the Pacific Ocean

The East Pacific Rise is a mid-oceanic ridge, a divergent tectonic plate boundary located along the floor of the Pacific Ocean. It separates the Pacific Plate to the west from the North American Plate, the Rivera Plate, the Cocos Plate, the Nazca Plate, and the Antarctic Plate. It runs south from the Gulf of California in the Salton Sea basin in Southern California to a point near 55° S, 130° W, where it joins the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge trending west-southwest towards Antarctica, near New Zealand. Much of the rise lies about 3200 km (2000 mi) off the South American coast and rises about 1,800–2,700 m (6,000–9,000 ft) above the surrounding seafloor.

Caribbean Plate A mostly oceanic tectonic plate including part of Central America and the Caribbean Sea

The Caribbean Plate is a mostly oceanic tectonic plate underlying Central America and the Caribbean Sea off the north coast of South America.

A submarine, undersea, or underwater earthquake is an earthquake that occurs underwater at the bottom of a body of water, especially an ocean. They are the leading cause of tsunamis. The magnitude can be measured scientifically by the use of the moment magnitude scale and the intensity can be assigned using the Mercalli intensity scale.

Geology of Chile

The geology of Chile is a characterized by processes linked to subduction such as volcanism, earthquakes and orogeny. The buildings blocks of Chile's geology assembled during the Paleozoic Era. Chile was by then the southwestern margin of the supercontinent Gondwana. In the Jurassic Gondwana begun to split and the ongoing period of crustal deformation and mountain building known as the Andean orogeny begun. In the Late Cenozoic Chile definitely separated from Antarctica, the Andes expienced a great rise accomplained by a cooling climate and the onset of glaciations.

The Chile Triple Junction is a geologic triple junction located on the seafloor of the Pacific Ocean off Taitao and Tres Montes Peninsula on the southern coast of Chile. Here three tectonic plates meet: the South American Plate, the Nazca Plate, and the Antarctic Plate. This triple junction is unusual in that it consists of a mid-oceanic ridge, the Chile Rise, being subducted under the South American Plate at the Peru–Chile Trench.

Nazca Ridge A submarine ridge on the Nazca Plate off the west coast of South America

The Nazca Ridge is a submarine ridge, located on the Nazca Plate off the west coast of South America. This plate and ridge are currently subducting under the South American Plate at a convergent boundary known as the Peru-Chile Trench at approximately 7.7 cm (3.0 in) per year. The Nazca Ridge began subducting obliquely to the collision margin at 11°S, approximately 11.2 Ma, and the current subduction location is 15°S. The ridge is composed of abnormally thick basaltic ocean crust, averaging 18 ±3 km thick. This crust is buoyant, resulting in flat slab subduction under Peru. This flat slab subduction has been associated with the uplift of Pisco Basin and the cessation of Andes volcanism and the uplift of the Fitzcarrald Arch on the South American continent approximately 4 Ma.

This is a list of articles related to plate tectonics and tectonic plates.

Ridge push or sliding plate force is a proposed driving force for plate motion in plate tectonics that occurs at mid-ocean ridges as the result of the rigid lithosphere sliding down the hot, raised asthenosphere below mid-ocean ridges. Although it is called ridge push, the term is somewhat misleading; it is actually a body force that acts throughout an ocean plate, not just at the ridge, as a result of gravitational pull. The name comes from earlier models of plate tectonics in which ridge push was primarily ascribed to upwelling magma at mid-ocean ridges pushing or wedging the plates apart.


  1. "Here are the Sizes of Tectonic or Lithospheric Plates". Retrieved 6 April 2018.
  2. Meijer, P.T.; Wortel, M.J.R. (July 30, 1992). "The Dynamics of Motion of the South American Plate". Journal of Geophysical Research. 97: 11915. Bibcode:1992JGR....9711915M. doi:10.1029/91jb01123.
  3. Pisco, Peru, Earthquake of August 15, 2007: Lifeline Performance. Reston, VA: ASCE, Technical Council on Lifeline Earthquake Engineering. ISBN   9780784410615. Archived from the original on November 14, 2012.
  4. "Convergent Plate Boundaries - Oceanic/Continental: The Andes". The Geological Society. Retrieved 2 July 2018.
  5. Penvenne, Laura Jean (27 January 1996). "South America buckles under the pressure". New Scientist. Retrieved 2 July 2018.