The Impact of Plate Tectonics on the Caribbean

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The Impact Of Plate Tectonics on the Caribbean

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

* Volcanic activity in the Caribbean itself, as distinct from Central America, is largely limited to the eastern Caribbean. Here, the Caribbean plate, moving approximately west to east, meets the North American plate, which is moving approximately east to west. This creates what is known as a seductions zone, where the North American plate is driven below the Caribbean plate. The rock of the North American plate melts, but as it is less dense than the molten rock of the earth's mantle, it rises, forcing its way through weaknesses in the earth's crust. The points where this molten rock appears on the Earth's surface are volcanoes.

* Roughly 3.2 million square kilometers (1.2 million square miles) in area, the Caribbean Plate borders the North American Plate, the South American Plate, the Nazca Plate and the Cocos Plate. These borders are regions of intense seismic activity, including frequent earthquakes, occasional tsunamis and volcanic eruptions.

* Plate tectonics give rise to fold mountains, earthquakes, volcanoes, island arcs and ocean ridges. An example of an island arc is the Lesser Antilles.

* Fold Mountains are mountain ranges that are formed when two of the tectonic plates that make up the Earth's crust push together at their border. The extreme pressure forces the edges of the plates upwards into a series of folds.

* Because the plates are being created and are spreading there must be a place where they stop moving; this is the convergent margin. In this zone the advancing edge of a plate meeting another plate causes one to be driven under, often with violent consequences, creating volcanoes and earthquakes (and possibly tsunamis).

* The boundary where the Caribbean Plate meets the Cocos Plate is a fine example of a...
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