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Plate Tectonics

Continental Drift Theory

Continental DriftsAlfred Wegener (1880-1930) was a German born meteorologist who originated the theory of continental drift. He proposed that at one time the continents had all been part of a single land mass, which he called Pangea. This supercontinent eventually broke up to produce the pattern of continents we know today.

To support his theory Wegener pointed to the coastlines of the continents that appeared as though they once fit together, the similarity of fossils found on these "complementary" coastlines, and the evidence that these areas once shared similar climates. However, like most great men who seem to display an intelligence ahead of their time, Wegener experienced ridicule and scorn from his contemporaries.

Today, sea floor spreading and plate tectonics, have managed to answer most of the questions raised by Wegener's theory, by explaining the methods by which entire continents are moved.

Continental Drifts At that time the continents were being pulled apart by tectonic forces continuing their migration that started during the Triassic Period. New oceans were formed in rift zones similar to today's Rift Valley of East Africa and globally the weather was very warm and humid. The ice caps had totally melted, even on Antarctica, causing a worldwide rise in sea levels. The middle of the continent, North America was at relatively low elevation relative to the world's oceans and was thus covered by a body of water separating the continent in two separate land masses.