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Handout 6 of 14 (Topic 2.1)

Earth’s Crust and Interior

Seafloor topography around Iceland in the North Atlantic Ocean (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:N-Atlantic-topo.png). Iceland has formed above the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, on the boundary between the North America and Eurasian plates. Iceland is located above a plume of anomalously hot rock near the core-mantle boundary.

Global Patterns The Earth’s Crust and the Earth’s Interior
Key Ideas
The Earth’s Crust Continental crust is different from oceanic crust. With the aid of maps and sectional diagrams, compare continental crust and oceanic crust in terms of their: • • • •

Intended Student Learning

global distribution; thickness; composition and density; topographical features; age.

Continental crust consists of shields, orogenic belts, and sedimentary basins.

Describe the typical ages, processes of formation, and topographic features of, and the rock types associated with, shields, orogenic belts, and sedimentary basins. On a map of Australia, mark the locations of the Western Australian, Gawler, Adelaide, Tasman, and Eromanga crustal elements. State the ages of each of the crustal elements listed above. List the distinguishing rock types in each crustal element listed above. Identify the tectonic crustal type in each crustal element listed above. Use the information above to explain how the Australian continent has developed.

The Earth’s Interior Evidence for the nature of the Earth’s interior can be obtained from seismic waves. Explain the meaning of the terms ‘focus’ and ‘epicentre’ as they apply to an earthquake. Describe the properties of P-waves and S-waves. State the relative arrival times of P-waves and Swaves as shown by a typical seismogram. Explain how the different arrival times of P-waves and S-waves can be used to find the epicentre of an earthquake. Explain how the presence of shadow zones provides information about the layered structure of the Earth. Using a diagram, describe the structure of the Earth’s interior, showing the crust, mantle, outer core, and inner core. Describe the relative thickness, composition, and state of each layer.

Topic 2.1

Earth’s Crust and Interior

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1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 3 of 28 . extensive areas of low relief Sial (Silicon and aluminium) 2.2. abyssal plains. Continental and Oceanic Crust Continental crust and oceanic crust are very different in nature.mainly in the northern hemisphere. Continental crust has a very complicated structure and variable composition. Global Distribution The map of Earth’s landmasses on the left shows that oceanic crust occupies the majority of Earth’s surface. COMPARISON BETWEEN CONTINENTAL & OCEANIC CRUST Feature Global distribution Average thickness Maximum thickness Topographical features Composition Average density (gcm-3) Age Continental Crust 35% of Earth’s surface .3 Up to 250 Ma NB: The terms sima and sial are generic terms which describe the overall composition of continental and oceanic crust.1 . brittle rock on which we live. Differences between continental and oceanic crust are summarised in the table below. 5 km 12 km Mid-ocean ridges.Global Patterns EARTH’S CRUST The crust is Earth’s outermost layer. Sima . and that most of the continental crust lies in the northern hemisphere Topic 2.Silicon and aluminium .is the material of the continental crust. Sial .is the material of the oceanic crust and upper mantle.Silicon and magnesium . It is a thin skin of relatively cool.mainly in the southern hemisphere.7 Up to 3800 Ma Oceanic crust 65% of Earth’s surface . trenches Sima (Silicon and magnesium) 3. whereas oceanic crust has a simple layered structure and uniform composition. 35 km 70 km Fold mountain ranges.

The diagram below shows the relationship between oceanic and continental crust. The following points should be noted: • Continental crust (sial) is much thicker under mountain ranges than beneath flat areas High mountains have deep roots! Oceanic crust (sima) is thought to lie beneath the continents as well as forming the ocean floors. Continental shelves extend seawards from the shoreline to the upper edge of the continental slope. The shelf usually has a seaward slope of less than 1°. orogenic belts and sedimentary basins. At the outer edge of the continental shelf there is an increase in slope which marks the beginning of the continental slope. At least two thirds of Australia became a shield area by 1000 Topic 2.regions of submerged continental crust where the water is comparatively shallow. where the depth of the water is usually about 200 metres.landmasses which have been severely folded and metamorphosed. • Continental Shelves All continents are surrounded by continental shelves . Structural Units of Continental Crust Earth’s continents consist essentially of three structural units . and have eroded for hundreds of millions.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 4 of 28 . even thousands of millions of years. The continent-ocean boundary is half-way down the continental slope.shields. Shields Shields are the oldest regions of continents. They are stable areas of thick continental crust .

A wide variety of rock types may be found in orogenic belts. or Geosynclines) An orogenic belt is a long linear area of Earth's crust which is undergoing. 'basement' and where there has been no significant orogenic activity. are formed. and gneiss. and the Great Dividing Range of eastern Australia are examples of linear orogenic belts. including: • • • sedimentary rocks such as sandstone. rocks produced by regional metamorphism . intense deformation (i. The western part of Western Australia (i.Ma. Most of the Australian continent consists of sedimentary basins. which may include both intrusive and extrusive igneous activity. although they are much older and more eroded than the fold mountain ranges found on other continents. Predominant rock types in shields are schists. which vary in age from late Proterozoic to Cainozoic.slate. gneisses and granites. Other orogenic belts include the Himalayas. shields are areas of low relief (essentially flat by world standards). and the Eyre Peninsula area of South Australia (Gawler Craton) are examples of shields. Orogenic Belts (also called Fold Belts. Pilbara and Yilgarn Blocks).1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 5 of 28 . igneous rocks . the Alps of Europe and the Andes of South America.e. schist. or has undergone.granite and basalt. Such an orogenic belt may be formed when two continents collide and very high fold mountain ranges. eroded. Ages of orogenic belts vary considerably from late Proterozoic. Sedimentary Basins Sedimentary basins are regions where thick layers of sediments have been deposited on an older. such as the Mount Lofty and Flinders Ranges. possessing a thin surface cover of unfolded sediments of terrestrial or marine origin. folding) accompanied by seismic and volcanic activity. to Cainozoic such as the Himalayas.e. such as the Himalayas. The oldest rocks in Australia are in the Pilbara and Yilgarn Blocks of Western Australia where there are sedimentary strata as old as 3800 Ma. The Mount Lofty and Flinders Ranges in South Australia. shale. In contrast to the mountainous nature of orogenic belts. Topic 2. Alps and Andes (Earth’s highest mountain ranges are its youngest!). These are areas of fold mountain ranges. and limestone.

the Australian continent was part of a much larger land mass. The map below shows the approximate locations of some of the most important crustal elements of the Australian continent. shale and limestone. At around 200 Ma the supercontinent Pangaea began to Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 6 of 28 2.All the rocks are sedimentary and include varieties of sandstone. at 250 Ma). basalt. shale limestone. shale sandstone. limestone.e.the most recent. gneiss granite. slate. Important Crustal Elements of the Australian Continent The table below summarises the significant features of the crustal elements shown on the map: Crustal element Eromanga (Basin) Tasman (Fold Belt) Adelaide (Geosyncline) Gawler (Craton) Western Australian (Shield) Age Late Proterozoic to Cainozoic Palaeozoic Late Proterozoic Early Proterozoic Archaean schist. gneiss granites Shield Distinguishing rock types Sandstone. schist. Tectonic crustal type Sedimentary basin Orogenic belt Development of the Australian Continent 1. significant orogenic activity ended by the beginning of the Mesozoic era (i. For most of its history. Topic 2. The Australian continent is one of Earth's oldest and most stable land masses .1 .

the Adelaide Geosyncline). In the Cretaceous Period and again during the Palaeogene and Neogene Periods (formerly known as the Tertiary Period).break apart into Laurasia and Gondwana. The oldest rocks on the continent are found in the Pilbara and Yilgarn Blocks. and sediments were deposited in long narrow troughs (sometimes referred to geosynclines. 5.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 7 of 28 . The diagrams on the next page show the sequence of events by which the Australian continent has. others when it was in the tropics and others when it was near the South Pole. Topic 2. 6. much of what is now southern Australia was covered by a huge ice sheet. The shape of the present-day Australian continent did not finally come into existence until around 60 Ma. resulting in the deposition of marine sedimentary strata and the formation of sedimentary basins.e. There is evidence that.g. which together comprise the Western Australian Shield. e. the sea invaded large areas of inland Australia. Palaeomagnetic studies show that some rocks were formed when the continent was near the North Pole. there has been no orogenic activity within the Australian continent for since 180 Ma (i. It resulted in the formation of the Great Dividing Range from sediments deposited in the Tasman Geosyncline. 3. the Gawler Craton). when Australia and Antarctica began to move apart. 4. There is evidence that Australia moved extensively across the surface of the globe since 3800 Ma. The most recent orogenic activity began early in the Palaeozoic Era (~ 530 Ma) and continued until the end of the Triassic Period (~ 180 Ma). and consequently it has gradually eroding to form a relatively flat topography. during the Permian period. Processes in the Growth of the Continent The land which makes up the present-day Australian continent has been accreted (built-up) from the west. Essentially. (The western and central parts of) Australia once formed part of landmasses which existed even before the formation of Pangaea. the nucleus of the Australian continent. the landmass has been tectonically stable). In turn.g. Eventually orogenesis turned these sediments into fold mountain ranges which were 'welded' onto the older continental nucleus in the west. these mountain ranges have been eroded to form younger shields (e. since 3800 Ma. 'grown' (accreted) progressively from the west by means of a succession of mountain ranges eroding to shields. like the one that covers the Antarctic continent today. At the same time a series of orogenic belts has been eroded to form shields.

1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 8 of 28 .Topic 2.

The diagram below shows the internal structure of the Earth in more detail.40 Oceanic Mantle Outer core Inner core Average 12 2900 2100 1400 Topic 2. including the approximate depths of the boundaries between the layers. Name of Layer Thickness (km) Physical state solid solid solid liquid solid Composition granitic (sial) basaltic (sima) peridotite alloy of Fe & Ni same as outer core.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 9 of 28 . All our knowledge about Earth's interior comes from indirect evidence. such as seismic waves and the composition of meteorites. The adjacent diagram shows that Earth consists of four major layers.EARTH’S INTERIOR The Nature of Earth's Interior We know more about outer space than we do about the interior of our own planet. The following table summarises the essential properties for each of Earth's layers. Crust: Continental 25 .

The epicentre of the earthquake is the point on the surface of Earth situated directly above the focus.Earthquakes The passage of earthquake waves through Earth provides valuable information about the nature of its interior. vibrations generated at the fracture travel through the rocks as earthquakes. The focus of an earthquake is the location inside Earth of the fracture or faulting which caused the earthquake. The lithosphere then breaks. The lithosphere (Earth’s solid outer layer) may bend until the stress exceeds the strength of the rocks. which causes stress in the rocks.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 10 of 28 . Topic 2. or 'snaps' into a new position. In the breaking process. Earthquakes occur in areas where rocks are subject to directed pressure.

Topic 2.Earthquake Waves The waves produced by earthquakes may be divided into two groups. Body waves travel through Earth’s interior. Surface waves or L-waves. which travel around Earth’s surface. There are two types of body waves: a. A transverse wave consists of a series of crests and troughs. in which the particles of the medium (the material through which the wave is travelling) vibrate backwards and forwards along the line of propagation of the wave forming a series of compressions and rarefactions. They are: 1. Rarefactions are regions of the wave in which the particles of the medium are further apart. as shown in the diagram below. b. These are the waves which cause earthquake damage. Primary. Primary Waves These are the fastest waves produced by the earthquake. They travel through Earth's interior. These are transverse waves in which the particles of the medium vibrate perpendicular to the direction of propagation of the wave. and reach recording stations first. or push-pull waves (P-waves). 2.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 12 of 28 . Secondary. or shear waves (S-waves). Secondary Waves Secondary waves also travel through Earth’s interior. Compressions are regions of the wave in which the particles of the medium are close together. They are longitudinal waves. The diagram below shows the behaviour of the particles of a medium as a Pwave passes through the medium.

Topic 2. Shadow Zones Wherever an earthquake occurs. there are always some seismic stations around the world which receive no waves at all from that earthquake. There are also stations which receive only P-waves.Refraction of Earthquake Waves The speed at which a wave travels depends on the medium through which it is travelling. and the direction in which it travels also changes. Light waves are refracted as they pass from water into glass. since their speed is less in shallow water. As a wave passes from one medium to another its speed changes. For example water waves are refracted as they pass from deep water into shallow water. For this reason. or refraction. This is because of the behaviour of the waves as they pass from one of Earth's layers to the next one. so that earthquake waves are gradually refracted towards Earth's surface as they travel through the mantle. All kinds of waves undergo a change in direction. This region is known as the P-wave shadow zone.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 13 of 28 . no P-waves are received by seismic stations in a band around Earth extending between 103° and 145° from the earthquake's epicentre. as they pass from one medium to another. The density of Earth's mantle increases with depth. P-waves undergo refraction at the boundary between the mantle and the outer core. The P-Wave Shadow Zone As well as being gradually refracted as they pass through the mantle.

The S-Wave Shadow Zone The S-wave shadow zone is much more extensive than the corresponding Pwave zone. The S-wave shadow zone therefore extends from 103° on one side of the earthquake to 103° on the other.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 14 of 28 . The adjacent diagram shows the P-wave shadow zone produced by an earthquake which occurred at the North Pole. The extent of the P-wave shadow zone .enables the depth of the boundary between the mantle and the outer core to be calculated. This is because S-waves are unable to travel through liquids and are therefore absorbed by the liquid outer core.between 103° and 145° from the earthquake's epicentre . The diagram below shows the paths of the S-waves through Earth's interior.The diagram below shows how P-waves are refracted at boundaries between Earth's layers to produce the P-wave shadow zone. Existence of the S-wave shadow zone provides evidence that Earth's outer core is liquid. and hence the S-wave shadow zone. Topic 2.

It is much larger than the Pwave shadow zone produced by the same earthquake.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 15 of 28 .The adjacent diagram shows the S-wave shadow zone produced by an earthquake which occurred at the North Pole. Topic 2.

Feature Global distribution Average thickness Maximum thickness Topographical features Composition Average density (gcm-3) Age (Ma) Continental crust Oceanic crust 2. continental slope. Explain the meanings of the terms sima and sial. The diagram below shows the relationship between oceanic and continental crust. Topic 2. 3. Compare the essential features of continental and oceanic crust by completing the table below. oceanic crust. On the diagram. abyssal plain.EXERCISES EARTH’S CRUST Continental and Oceanic Crust 1. label the following features: continental shelf. continental crust.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 16 of 28 .

4. STRUCTURAL UNIT TYPICAL AGES PROCESS OF FORMATION TOPOGRAPHIC FEATURES PREDOMINANT ROCK TYPES 2. In the table below. Structural Units of Continental Crust 1. Topic 2. summarise the essential features of the principal structural units of continental crust. Name the five crustal elements which make up the continent. Describe the essential features of a continental shelf. Identify the tectonic crustal types indicated in the key. On the map of the Australian continent shown below: a. b.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 17 of 28 .

1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 19 of 28 . The diagram below contains a blank stratigraphic column. Complete this stratigraphic column to show the periods of rock formation on the Australian continent. Ma 0 24 65 145 210 250 300 350 400 440 500 540 600 Proterozoic Palaeozoic Mesozoic Cainozoic Era Period Neogene Palaeogene Cretaceous Jurassic Triassic Permian Carboniferous Devonian Silurian Ordovician Cambrian Ediacaran FEATURES OF AUSTRALIAN CONTINENT 2500 Archaean STRATIGRAPHIC COLUMN CRUSTAL ELEMENTS FORMED Topic 2. and name the features which were formed.3.

3. 2. 4. Name the super-continent which once encompassed all of Earth's land masses. When did this super-continent begin to break up? Name the two land masses which were formed. write the names of the crustal elements in order of their ages.4. Use the table below summarises the significant features of the crustal elements shown on the map: Crustal element Age (Ma) Distinguishing rock types Tectonic crustal type Development of the Australian Continent 1. YOUNGEST OLDEST 5. Topic 2. In the space provided below.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 20 of 28 . 5. When did the most recent major orogenic activity on the Australian continent end? Explain why the Australian continent is one of Earth's most stable land masses.

12. 9.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 21 of 28 . Is it true to say that Pangaea represents the distribution of land and sea on Earth's surface from the formation of Earth until about 200 Ma? Explain your answer: 8. When and how did the present-day Australian continent come into existence? 7. Describe. During which period did a large ice sheet cover much of southern Australia? 11. Topic 2. What features are the results of these incursions? 14. Use diagrams to illustrate your answer. 13. the processes by which the Australian continent has developed since 3800 Ma. in general terms. Has Australia always occupied its present position on Earth's surface? Explain your answer. What are palaeomagnetic studies? 10. Name two periods in which the sea invaded large areas of inland Australia. Name some South Australian locations where there is evidence of glaciation.6.

1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 22 of 28 . The adjacent diagram shows the structural features of an imaginary continent Walfordaria.15. 16. Name the periods during which this activity began and ended. where the rocks are mainly schists and gneisses. It comprises a fold mountain range and an eroded region of low relief. Topic 2. 17. In the space below. Give the geological and geographic names of the feature which is a result of the most recent orogenic activity on the Australian continent. draw a series of diagrams showing the geological history of Walfordaria.

Give the names of the layers numbered 1 to 4.18. The diagram below shows a section through Earth.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 23 of 28 . A range of fold mountains Pangaea A very long period of erosion Show no signs of orogenic activity Provides evidence for the 'wandering' of the continent The Tasman crustal element When much of inland Australia was under the sea The most recent orogenic activity in Australia The 'nucleus' of the Australian continent Pilbara and Yilgarn Blocks Great Dividing Range Late in the Triassic Period Cretaceous and Tertiary Periods The 'ancestor' of a shield Sedimentary basins Leads to formation of shields Palaeomagnetic studies Formed by all the continents joined together The Nature of Earth's Interior 1. Connect the appropriate pairs of words or phrases from the two lists below. 1: 2: 3: 4: Topic 2.

Draw the boundaries between the major layers in the appropriate places. and name the material of which each layer is made. 3. Use the following table to summarise the essential properties of each of Earth's layers.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 24 of 28 .2. Thickness (km) Physical state Composition Name of layer Crust: Continental Oceanic Mantle Outer core Inner core Topic 2. The diagram below shows a section through Earth's interior.

Explain. Topic 2. with the aid of a second diagram. a. what happens when the applied force exceeds the strength of the rocks. with the aid of a diagram.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 25 of 28 . The adjacent diagram shows an area of Earth’s surface where rocks are being subjected to directed pressure causing stress to build-up. In what way are rocks reacting to the applied pressure? b.Earthquakes 1. 2. Explain. the difference between the focus and the epicentre of an earthquake.

Topic 2. TYPE OF WAVE MOVEMENT OF PARTICLES DIAGRAM P-waves S-waves 3. Use the table below to summarise the properties of P and S-waves. and give the arrival time of each wave type. The diagram below shows a typical seismogram. Label it to show the arrivals of the different types of earthquake wave.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 26 of 28 .2.

Show on the diagram below the refraction of an earthquake wave passing from one of Earth’s layers to another. Explain why earthquake waves are refracted as they pass through Earth’s mantle. Topic 2. Use the diagram of a part of Earth’s interior below to indicate the paths of some of the body waves produced by an earthquake as they travel through the mantle. 5. 6.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 27 of 28 .4.

indicate the extent of the P and S wave shadow zones associated with an earthquake which occurred at the North Pole. Use the two diagrams of Earth's interior provided below to show how the P and S-wave shadow zones are formed. P-wave shadow zone 6. P-wave shadow zone 5. S-wave shadow zone What information is provided by the P-wave shadow zone? 7.7. What do we learn from the S-wave shadow zone? Topic 2.1 Earth’s Crust and Interior Page 28 of 28 . S-wave shadow zone On the diagrams below.