GEOL 456/656
Plate Tectonic Theory

Offered Fall 1997, code 81145/82713 , 3 Credits
Tuesdays and Thursdays 11:00-12:15 in LMR 253


The description below is available to WWW viewers such as Mosaic or Netscape at the URL

Course Outline

Lecture	Date		Topic	

1. Tu 8/26 Introduction & historical perspective: The birth of a theory (Karlin) 2. Th 8/28 Fundamentals of earthquake seismology (Louie) 3. Tu 9/2 Velocity structure of the earth (Louie) 4. Th 9/4 Continental drift (Karlin) 5. Tu 9/9 Paleomagnetism and apparent polar wander paths (Karlin) 6. Th 9/11 Isostasy and heat flow (Karlin) 7. Tu 9/16 Composition of the earth (Louie) 8. Th 9/18 Lithospheric deformation (Louie) 9. Tu 9/23 Sea floor magnetic anomalies and seafloor spreading (Karlin) 10. Th 9/25 The magnetic reversal time scale and magnetostratigraphy (Karlin) 11. Tu 9/30 The plate tectonics paradigm (Louie) 12. Th 10/2 Modelling relative and absolute plate motions (Karlin) Tu 10/7 Presentations and Review Th 10/9 MIDTERM EXAM I 13. Tu 10/14 Oceanic ridges and continental rifts (Karlin) 14. Th 10/16 Transform faults and Fracture zones (Karlin) 15. Tu 10/21 Triple junctions (Karlin) 16. Th 10/23 Subduction zones (Karlin) 17. Tu 10/28 Volcanic island arcs and marginal seas (Karlin) 18. Th 10/30 Mountain ranges I - Ocean-continent collisions (Karlin) 19. Tu 11/4 Mountain ranges II - Continent-continent collisions (Karlin) 20. Th 11/6 Arc-continent collisions and suspect terrains (Karlin) Tu 11/11 Veteran's Day - no classes 21. Th 11/13 Driving mechanisms of plate tectonics I (Louie) 22. Tu 11/18 Driving mechanisms of plate tectonics II (Louie) 23. Th 11/20 Continental breakup (Karlin) (possible MIDTERM EXAM II) 24. Tu 11/25 The Wilson cycle and basin formation (Karlin) Th 11/27 Thanksgiving - no classes 25. Tu 12/2 History of the earth- Part I - Cenozoic and Mesozoic (Karlin) 26. Th 12/4 History of the earth- Part II - Paleozoic and PreCambrian (Karlin) 27. Tu 12/9 Plate tectonics and natural resources (Karlin) Th 12/11 FINAL EXAM 7:30-9:30 A.M.
Macintosh users can download the archives of the lectures underlined above from and, and use StuffitExpander to unpack the Netscape Browser to view lecture notes on their own hard disks. Macintosh disks are also available from Louie. Click here for detailed instructions.

Office Hours

By Appointment
Bob Karlin: 257 LMR, 784-1770,
John Louie: 217 LME, 784-4219,


Kearey, P., and Vine, F. J., Global Tectonics, 2nd edition, Blackwell Science, 333 pp., 1996.

Class Organization

To encourage interactive learning, the course will be organized in a lecture/seminar format. Each week, a selected number of important scientific articles will be assigned. In the latter part of the Wednesday session, each student will have the opportunity to review these topics and lead a class discussion. Since an understanding of fundamental principles requires active play and practice, problem sets and/or class reports will be given about every other week and will be due the following Wednesday. Formal examinations will consist of the first midterm and a comprehensive final. The second midterm may be given if circumstances warrant.


Class participation:	25%
Homework problem sets:	25%
Midterm I		25%
Final exam		25%

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