Question: What causes tectonic plates to move?


  1. Good question, this is well outside my area of work… but i seem to remember back to first year geology that they move because they sit/float on the liquid mantle and movement is caused by different thermal zones.


  2. Another good question. What Mark said is basically correct: the tectonic plates sit on top of a liquid mantle, and convection, which is mixing due to regions being at different temperatures, drives their motion. They don’t just move sideways, they also move up and down, and this is what causes mountain ranges to form: one plate sliding under another.

    It just so happens that there was an excellent article publish this morning on The Conversation explaining tectonic plates! You can read it here:

    I think the diagrams presented give a good idea of what’s going on. Please let me know if you need some of the terms in that article explained!



  1. I have always wondered this as well! 🙂