The crust is the layer that you live on, and it is the most widely studied and understood. The mantle is much hotter and has the ability to flow. The Outer and Inner Cores are hotter still with pressures so great that you would be squeezed into a ball smaller than a marble if you were able to go to the center of the Earth!!!!!!
The Earth’s Crust is like the skin of an apple. It is very thin in comparison to the other three layers. The crust is only about 3-5 miles (8 kilometers) thick under the oceans(oceanic crust) and about 25 miles (32 kilometers) thick under the continents (continental crust). The temperatures of the crust vary from air temperature on top to about 1600 degrees Fahrenheit (870 degrees Celcius) in the deepest parts of the crust. You can bake a loaf of bread in your oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit , at 1600 degrees F. rocks begin to melt.
The crust of the Earth is broken into many pieces called plates. The plates “float” on the soft, plastic mantle which is located below the crust. These plates usually move along smoothly but sometimes they stick and build up pressure. The pressure builds and the rock bends until it snaps. When this occurs an Earthquake is the result!
Notice how thin the crust of the Earth is in comparison to the other layers. The seven continents and ocean plates basically float across the mantle which is composed of much hotter and denser material.
The crust is composed of two basic rock types granite and basalt. The continental crust is composed mostly of granite. The oceanic crust consists of a volcanic lava rock called basalt.
Basaltic rocks of the ocean plates are much denser and heavier than the granitic rock of the continental plates. Because of this the continents ride on the denser oceanic plates. The crust and the upper layer of the mantle together make up a zone of rigid, brittle rock called the Lithosphere. The layer below the rigid lithosphere is a zone of asphalt-like consistancy called the Asthenosphere. The asthenosphere is the part of the mantle that flows and moves the plates of the Earth.
The mantle is the layer located directly under the sima. It is the largest layer of the Earth, 1800 miles thick. The mantle is composed of very hot, dense rock. This layer of rock even flows like asphalt under a heavy weight. This flow is due to great temperature differences from the bottom to the top of the mantle. The movement of the mantle is the reason that the plates of the Earth move! The temperature of the mantle varies from 1600 degrees Fahrenheit at the top to about 4000 degrees Fahrenheit near the bottom!
The mantle is made of much denser, thicker material, because of this the plates “float” on it like oil floats on water.
Many geologists believe that the mantle “flows” because of convection currents. Convection currents are caused by the very hot material at the deepest part of the mantle rising, then cooling, sinking again and then heating, rising and repeating the cycle over and over. The next time you heat anything like soup or pudding in a pan you can watch the convection currents move in the liquid. When the convection currents flow in the mantle they also move the crust. The crust gets a free ride with these currents. A conveyor belt in a factory moves boxes like the convection currents in the mantle moves the plates of the Earth.
This liquid layer of iron and nickel is 5,150km deep. The outer core flows around the centre of the Earth, and the movement of the metals creates our planet’s magnetic field.
The Earth’s inner core is a huge metal ball, 2,500km wide. Made mainly of iron, the temperature of the ball is 5,000°C to 6,000°C – that’s up to 6,000 times hotter than our atmosphere and scorching enough to make metal melt! The metal at the inner core stays solid because of the incredible pressure surrounding it.
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