Encyclopedia of Marine Geosciences

Living Edition
| Editors: Jan Harff, Martin Meschede, Sven Petersen, Jörn Thiede

Plate Motion

  • R. Dietmar Müller
  • Maria Seton
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6644-0_131-1



Plate motion can be relative or absolute. Relative plate motion describes the motion of one tectonic plate relative to another. Absolute plate motion describes the motion of one plate relative to a fixed reference system. Plate motion can be described by a pole of rotation and an angular velocity about this pole.


A tectonic plate is defined as a portion of the outer shell of the Earth that moves coherently as a rigid body without any significant internal deformation over geological timescales. The Earth’s surface is composed of a mosaic of rigid plates that move relative to one another over hotter, more mobile mantle material. Plates interact at plate boundaries, which are dynamically evolving and continuous features.


Alfred Wegner’s idea of “continental drift” (Wegener, 1915) to explain the geometrical, geological, environmental, and paleontological similarities between now distant continents lacked a physically plausible...


Global Position System Magnetic Anomaly Plate Boundary Plate Motion Paleomagnetic Data 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.EarthByte Group, School of GeosciencesThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia