|Focus||Structure of the Earth|
|Topics||Mantle, Plate Tectonics, Types of Rock|
Mantle makes up 84% of the Earth's volume and has an average thickness of approximately 1,800 miles (2,900 km). It is dense, hot, and primarily solid although in places it behaves more like a viscous fluid as the plates of the upper mantle and crust gradually "float" along its circumference.
The crust and the rigid lithosphere (upper mantle) is made up of approximately thirty separate plates. These plates more very slowly on the slightly more liquid mantle (asthenosphere) beneath them. This movement has resulted in continental drift which is the gradual movement of land masses across Earth's surface. Continental drift is a very slow process, occurring over hundreds of millions of years.
The Earth's rocks fall into three categories based on how they're formed. Igneous rock (granite, basalt, obsidian) is formed from the hardening of molten rock (lava), sedimentary rock (shale, sandstone, coal) is formed by the gradual despositing and cementing of rock and other debris, and metamorphic rock (marble, slate, quartzite) which is formed when existing rock is altered though pressure, temperature, or chemical processes.