EARTH 352: Global Tectonics


Course Details

Kinematics of plate tectonics. Geometry, determination, and description of plate motions. Paleomagnetism, marine magnetism, and hot spots. History of ocean basins and mountain-building processes. Prerequisites: EARTH 202 and PHYSICS 135-2; or consent of instructor.

Professors: Seth Stein (, Chris Scotese (

TA: Reece Elling  (

Structure: This online version is being used because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s an experiment, being built in real time. Not everything is ready, so things won’t be perfect and will evolve. We’ll all have to be flexible in this tough time. Still, we can have a good time and learn a lot.

Lectures (labeled as “including audio” once completed) are prerecorded, so you can download them and watch the power points at your own convenience and pace. You can also download a pdf to print. Contact us if you have difficulties.

We’ll have Zoom meetings at the scheduled time (1100 central) Tuesday and Thursdays for for discussion of class questions and homework due that day, aspects of the material, and homework help.

You may work (presumably remotely) with other students on the homework problems and class questions, as long as at the beginning of each assignment you list whom you worked with and on which parts. Please turn in problems and questions on Canvas. Computer problems can be done by writing programs or using Matlab, Excel or equivalent.

Despite the hassle, let’s bear in mind that this is a neat topic and is fun learning!


Required Texts

Introduction to Seismology, Earthquakes, and Earth Structure by S. Stein and M. Wysession (Blackwell Publishing, 2003).

GPLATES software (free download) to be loaded on your computer



Problem sets, in-class questions, lab problems



Each topic is a week’s worth of material

Topic 1 (including audio), Introduction: ppt1a, ppt1bppt1c, ppt1d, pdf1_(all parts)

Topic 2 (including audio), Geomagnetism and Paleomagnetism: ppt2a, ppt2b, pdf2 (all parts)

Topic 3 (including audio), Measuring Plate Motions:  ppt3appt3b, ppt3c, ppt3d, pdf3 (all parts)

Topic 4 (including audio), Plate Motions on a Spherical Earth: ppt4a, ppt4b, ppt4c, ppt4d, pdf4 (all parts)

Topic 5 (including audio), Absolute Plate Motions & Hotspots:  ppt5a, ppt5b, ppt5c, pdf5 (all parts)

Topic 6 (including audio), Earthquake Focal Mechanisms and Plate Motions: ppt6a, ppt6b, pdf6 (all parts)

Topic 7 (including audio), Geodesy for Tectonic and Earthquake Studies: ppt7a, ppt7bppt7cpdf7 (all parts)

Topic 8 (including audio), Plate boundaries and Plate Driving Forces: ppt8a, ppt8b, ppt8c, ppt8d, pdf8 (all parts)

Not converted to audio due to spring quarter length

Topic 8, Spreading Centers: pptpdf

Topic 9, Subduction Zones: pptpdf

Topic 10, Plate Boundary Zones & Plate Motion Changes: ppt1ppt2pdf

Topic 11 Continental Intraplate Earthquakes: A Science, Hazard, and Policy Challenge: pptpdf

Topic 12, Faulting & Deformation: ppt, pdf


Problem Sets:

Set 0, due 4/7:  doc

Set 1, due 4/16: doc

Set 2, due 4/23: doc

Set 3, due 4/30: doc

Set 4, due 5/7: doc

Set 5, due 5/14: doc

Set 6, due 5/21: doc

Set 7, due 5/28: doc

Set 8, due 6/4: doc


Reading material:

Math review (appendix),  pdf

Plate tectonics (ch5), pdf

Plate kinematics (ch6), pdf

Geomagnetism and paleomagnetism (ch7), pdf

NUVEL-1 overviews, pdf

GDH1 depth & heat flow data for PS 8, pdf