South American Plate (Tectonic)

South American Plate (Tectonic)

Mon, 09/28/2020 - 19:22

The South American Plate is a major, or primary, tectonic plate. Although it is the smallest major plate, it underlies much of the continent of South America and includes a sizable region of the Atlantic Ocean seabed.

South American Plate

The South American Plate is a major, or primary, tectonic plate. Although it is the smallest major plate, it underlies much of the continent of South America and includes a sizable region of the Atlantic Ocean seabed.

The theory of plate tectonics states that the Earths solid outer crust is separated into plates that move over the the molten upper portion of the mantle.

The northern edge of the South American Plate forms a boundary with the Caribbean Plate and the oceanic crust of the North American Plate.

 

Map of South American plate boundaries
Map of South American plate boundaries

 

The South American Plate extends eastward to the African Plate which are pulling apart from each other. This diverging plate boundary forms the southern part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, some of the youngest oceanic crust on the planet. The ridge is located on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean and forms the longest "mountain range" in the world.

The westward-moving South American Plate is moving away from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and on its western edge it forms a convergent boundary with the subducting Nazca Plate.

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, resulting in the longest convergent boundary on earth.

At the Chile Triple Junction, near the west coast of the Taitao–Tres Montes Peninsula, an oceanic ridge known as the Chile Rise is also actively subducting under the South American Plate.

This subduction zone generates frequent large earthquakes. The collision of these plates is also responsible for lifting the massive Andes Mountains, home to more than 200 potentially active volcanoes, along four Andean Volcanic Belts:

  • Northern Volcanic Zone
  • Central Volcanic Zone
  • Southern Volcanic Zone
  • Austral Volcanic Zone

 

Map Of Major Tectonic Plates In The World
Map Of Major Tectonic Plates In The World