Meteor Strike Effect on Plate Tectonics


Hi, I'm Sean Tvelia, and we're here at Suffolk County Community College to discuss what effect a meteorite strike has on plate tectonics. Plate tectonics is the theory the describes the movement and placement of continents and ocean basins across earth's surface over time. When we look at the earth, we find that the surface is actually fractured into 20 or so what we call lithospheric plates that extend from the surface to about 100 kilometers of depth. With meteorite impacts, although the effects of the meteorite strike might be devastating to the local area in terms of life and geology, we find that they really do not impact plate tectonics all that much. When we look at for instance Media Crater Arizona, or otherwise known as Barringer crater, that crater itself is about 1 mile wide and a couple hundred feet deep, whereas the lithospheric plate that it exists on extends for about 60 kilometers below that structure. So, although the energy created or impacted to the earth as a result of the strike might trigger events caused by plate tectonics, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, the impact itself really does not affect the general dynamics of plate tectonics or alter the placement of the continents or oceanic basins.

Professor Sean Tvelia is an Associate Professor of Geology at Suffolk County Community College.