Portland State University Oceanography Google Earth and Plate Tectonics Questions

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………….READ THIS first:

This exercise uses

Google Earth

(http://www.google.com/earth/index.html ) and Google

Earth overlays (.kmz files created by various members of the scientific community) and

information from the USGS website including seismic data and maps.

To import these

files into Google Earth, simply pick them up with the cursor and drop them into Google


You can activate/deactivate the individual layers in the “Temporary Places”

folder located on the panel on the left.

FIRST and FOREMOST: Download Google Earth:


Never used Google Earth Before? Perhaps try a Google Earth Tutorials:

1. Go to:


and select the



Drawing and Measuring

tours to familiarize yourself with

basic navigation in Google Earth.

Updating program if you already have Google Earth on your computer:

Since Google earth often has updates, please do the following steps prior to starting the



Open Google Earth on the laptop. Go to “help” and select “check for updates online


update if available or go to “


for the update.



uncheck the box

for: “Include Google Chrome, a fast new browser for

Windows and


Then select “agree and download”


:For this lab, you will need to record your answers in a separate word




You should include your name on the first line of the document and the

second line should read:

Lab 1 Introduction to google earth and Plate Tectonics.

Number each of your answers according to the question in this document. Each answer

must be on a different line.

Exercise 1: Latitude and Longitude

Turn on the latitude and longitude grid. Go to “View” from the top menu and select


Look at the very bottom of your screen. The Latitude, Longitude and elevation of your

cursor are shown. Negative elevation is depth below sea level.

(You can change from the units from decimal degrees to degrees, minutes, and seconds, AND from




by going to “Google Earth” from the top menu, then “Preferences”.)


Locate 0


Longitude. What is the name of this line? __________________________


Locate 180


Longitude. This line is called the International Date Line or the



While looking at 180


Longitude, what general direction are the Hawaiian Islands

located (east or west direction) of this line ? _________________


Search for Mauna Kea (use the search box) and zoom in until you get a blue/grey

square. Place your cursor over the center of it. What is the Latitude and

Longitude (degrees and minutes only) of Mauna Kea in Hawaii?

Lat____________________ Long_____________________


What is the Lat/ Long (degrees and minutes only) of the Loihi seamount?

Lat____________________ Long_____________________


What is the depth of the seamount (in meters)? ____________________


Briefly describe the significance of Loihi with respect to the Hawaiian Islands.

Exercise 2: Measuring Distances

Using the ruler (available along the toolbar at the top as the ruler icon), set the

distance units to Kilometers and measure the following with the ruler in Google Earth:

8. Approximately how far is Mauna Kea from Loihi seamount (in km)? _____________

9. Search and proceed to the island of Guam. What major deep ocean basin feature is

directly east of Guam? You may need to zoom out a bit in order to get some


Now zoom out and head to Florida!

10. Using the ruler tool, how far from Florida’s east coast is the Mid Atlantic Ridge?


Exercise 4: Plate Tectonics

Plate Boundaries

– Recall: there are 3 basic types of plate boundaries:


– When plates come together, one plate will be subducted under the

other. This forms features such as mountains, island arc systems, and ocean trenches.

Continent – Continent

– These often form mountain ranges.

Continent- Oceanic

– The denser oceanic plate subducts under the less dense

continental plate.


– The older and denser oceanic plate will subduct under the younger

less dense oceanic plate.


– When plates move apart it creates spreading centers that show up as sea

floor spreading zones in oceanic crust, and rift valleys in continental crust.


– When plates slide past each other. They are very common in oceans

where they offset mid-ocean ridge. Now go back to Google Earth!

DRAG and DROP the “

Earths_Tectonic_Plates.kmz” file onto Google Earth

. You

should now be able to see the location and nature of the plate boundaries.

11. What is the main plate boundary type found at the Mid-Atlantic Ridge?

12. What type of boundary is found between the South American Plate and the Nazca


13. What type of plate boundary runs through California?

14. What type of present-day collision formed the Himalayan Mountains at the

boundary between the Indian Plate and the Eurasian Plate?

Now, DRAG AND DROP “seafloor_age_10my_isochrons.kmz” into Google Earth

15. What is the approximate age of the crust at the Mid Atlantic Ridge plate boundary?

16. What is the approximate age of the oceanic crust off the eastern seaboard of North


17. Proceed to the oceanic crust off the coast of Oregon. What is the age of the crust

just offshore?

18. Why is the crust so young off the coast of the Pacific Northwest?


Look at the divergent plate boundary in the south Pacific west of South America.

How wide (east to west) is the 0 -10 Ma crust along this plate boundary?

(use the

ruler tool)

20. How wide is the 0 – 10 Ma crust along the Mid Atlantic Ridge?

21. Why is there is such a dramatic differences between the widths of the youngest

crust along these two mid ocean ridges?

22. Now, zoom back over to the Mid Atlantic Ridge. Describe how ocean depth

changes as you go from the Mid Atlantic Ridge plate boundary east toward the coast of

Europe. Give specific depths.

23. If you start at the Mid Atlantic Ridge and Move WEST toward North America, do you

observe the same pattern of depth variation?

You can now deactivate the “seafloor_age_10my_isochrons.kmz” layer. To do

this, click the box next to that layer, on the left under “Places”

Now, go to the island of Tonga (if you don’t know where this is, type “Tonga” into the

search bar.)


Make sure you have a distance scale at the bottom left. If you don’t, go to

“VIEW” at the top of the screen, and click “Scale Legend” and it should appear. You’ll

want kilometers instead of miles, so again at the top, click on “Google Earth” >

”Preferences” and then find “Units of Measurement” and select “meters, kilometers”.

Ok, Tonga is an island that sits near a convergent a plate boundary (

disregard the

divergent plate boundary labeled here-the red line).

Make sure you are properly

zoomed out (field of view of the screen at ~1500km or so).

24. Describe how the ocean depth changes as you approach and cross the Tonga plate

boundary from ~500 km east of Tonga to ~250 km west. Give specific depths.

25. What specific plate tectonic feature did you just cross


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