Status: 29.11.2023, 16:13 PM
The earth is built up in different layers. From the outside to the inside: the Earth's crust, (upper and lower) mantle, outer core and inner core. (Symbolic image) © imago/Pixelchaos
Our planet is made up of several shells. Temperatures in the Earth's interior are much higher than on the surface. This has consequences for continents and oceans.
Munich – The earth is made up of several layers. Researchers know this, even though it is not technically possible to penetrate into the Earth's core – it is too hot inside the Earth. But with the help of the analysis of seismic waves, science has discovered a lot about the Earth.
The Earth's core has a radius of about 3500 kilometers and consists of iron and nickel. In its interior, which is solid due to the high pressure, temperatures of about 6000 degrees Celsius prevail – as hot as the outside of the sun. The Earth's outer, liquid core is slightly cooler. According to the knowledge platform Earth and Environment ESKP, the temperatures there are between 3000 and 5000 degrees Celsius.
|Radius of about 3500 kilometers
|Upper mantle + crust (= lithosphere)
|About 8 kilometers, in some places up to 20 kilometers
|About 35 kilometers, under large mountains up to 70 kilometers
The Earth's core is surrounded by the so-called Earth's mantle. Although its lower layer consists of solid rock rich in magnesium and iron, it is – at least slightly – malleable. The upper layer of the Earth's mantle, the asthenosphere, is between 1000 and 1400 degrees Celsius hot.
Thick crust: Hard shell is up to 70 kilometres thick in some places
The lithosphere, which includes not only the uppermost layer of the Earth's mantle but also the Earth's crust, is up to 200 kilometres thick, according to ESKP. The crust is the solid, brittle surface of the earth. It is composed of the oceanic and continental crust.
The thickness of the oceanic crust is about 8 kilometres, in some places even up to 20 kilometres. The continental crust has an average thickness of about 35 kilometres. Under large mountains such as the Himalayas or parts of the Andes, it is even up to 70 kilometres thick.
Plate tectonics: Heat flux in the Earth's mantle causes movements
The enormous heat in the interior of the Earth can be attributed to a large extent to the decay of radioactive isotopes, according to the knowledge platform. Another part is residual heat, which still comes from the formation of the earth. The large temperature gradient between the Earth's interior and the Earth's surface causes a flow of heat. Since this current – also known as heat convection – takes place in the plastically deformable material of the Earth's mantle, movements occur.
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The differences in material and density in the different layers of the earth make this process extremely complicated. According to this, the heat flow in the Earth's mantle is responsible for the movement of the tectonic plates. Lithospheric plates float, so to speak, on the viscous asthenosphere. According to ESKP, the position and shape of the continents and seas have constantly changed as a result. (phf)