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Geothermal energy is the energy that comes from within the Earth.
It is produced by two sources:
a) the radioactive elements (uranium, thorium and potassium) that emit
radioactive energy.
b) the heat left over from the process of forming of Earth.
This energy is responsible for the internal geological processes
such as:
- Movements of the continents.
- Volcanoes.
- Earthquakes.
- Faulting, folding, the formation of some types of rocks, etc..
Alfred Wegener explained this theory in 1912. He said that all the
continents had once been united and these formed a super continent
which he called PANGEA.
To demonstrate this, he proposed three experiments:
- Geographical evidence: This is to unite the coastlines of the
continents on a map. We can see that continents, like Africa and South
America, fit together perfectly.
- Geological evidence: this is to study the situation of mineral deposits,
such as diamond deposits in the Congo and Brazil. Both deposits were
forming an only deposit, and this was fractured after.
- Paleontological evidence: this is based on the study dinosaur fossils,
as Mesosaurus, a terrestrial dinosaur that lived on both continents
(Africa y South America) which are separated by 20,000 km.
The scientific community did not accept Wegener's theory because he
could not explain what the movement of continents was caused by.


In 1960, scientists formulated a new theory, based on Wegeners
theory, called Plate Tectonics. It says that:
Earths surface consists of large blocks called tectonic plates. They
fit perfectly with each other, like a puzzle. These plates move each other,
because they are floating on a semi-fluid mantle layer called the
asthenosphere. The movement of the plates is due to the formation of
convection currents. These are formed when the hottest materials in the
asthenosphere rise. These materials strike the plates and cause their
This theory does not speak of continents but of tectonic or
lithosphere plates. The lithosphere is the layer of Earths surface formed
by the crust and the first kilometers of the mantle.


Limits of tectonic plates are delimited by the sites where earthquakes or
volcanoes are produced.
The tectonic plates can be of three types:
a) continental plates: they have continental crust on the surface. For
example, the Arabian plate.
b) oceanic plates: they have oceanic crust on the surface. For
example, the Pacific Plate.
c) Mixed Plate: they have oceanic crust and continental crust on the
surface. For example, the North American Plate, the Eurasian Plate,
African Plate, the indoaustraliana plate, etc.
The plates can perform three movements:
a) Movements of convergence: the two plates move towards each other,
so that the end of one plate is subducted beneath the other, in a large
depression known as trench. This creates:
enormous earthquakes (Turkey, El Salvador),
the formation of huge mountain ranges parallel to the
coastline (Andes)
the formation of island arcs (Japan).
When all the oceanic plate subducted beneath other, two
continents can collide because both continents have the same
density. This collision forms super mountain ranges as The

Process of formation of Himalayas
b) Movements of divergence: the two plates are separating from each
other. For this reason, materials come from inside the Earth with large
volcanic eruptions. Eruptions usually occur in the deep ocean and
materials make up submarine elevations known as RIDGES. The slit
through which these materials arise is called RIFT. The ridges provoke the
seafloor spreading.

c) Shear movements: the two plates slide past each other. This causes
the plates to crash into each other called transform faults. These cause
major earthquakes, such as the San Andreas Fault in San Francisco in

Volcanoes are cracks in the earth's surface where there are materials that
are composed mainly of molten rocks at temperatures between 400C and
800 C, called magma.
Materials that a volcano can eject can be:
a) Lava: material formed by magma without gases because these are
released to atmosphere.
b) gases, mainly water vapor, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide.
c) pyroclastics, are solids that are classified by size:
ash: smaller than 2 mm.
Lapillis: size between 2 and 64 mm.
Volcanic bombs: larger than 64 mm.


Volcanoes can be of three types:

* Pelean Volcanoes have very dense magma rich in gas. When the
magma comes out, there are violent explosions. The volcanic cones are
steep and accumulate many pyroclastics. When the magma cools this
results in clear-looking rocks. For example, pumice.
* Hawaian volcanoes are made up of very fluid magma with few
gases. The eruptions are quiet. The volcanic cones have shallow slopes
and few pyroclasts accumulate. When the magma cools this results in
dark looking rocks. For example, the basalts.
* Intermediate volcanoes have characteristics in between the
Pelean and Hawaiian. Most volcanoes are of this type.

Volcanic processes in Spain are limited to the Canary Islands.
These islands have a volcanic origin. On the island of Tenerife is
Mount Teide, Spain's highest peak. And the volcano is still active.
There are remnants of volcanic rocks in the Campo de Calatrava
(Ciudad Real), Cabo de Gata (Almera) and Olot (Gerona) showing a
volcanic origin of these areas. But these volcanoes are extinct.

An earthquake is a sudden shaking of the ground dues to the abrupt

release of energy inside the Earth.

The area inside the Earth where the earthquake originates is called the
The place on the surface located vertically above the hypocenter, is called
the epicenter.
Seismic waves are transmitted in all directions and are responsible for
the earthquake reaching distances far away.


To measure earthquakes, we can use two different scales:
MERCALLI SCALE: This scale measures the amount of general havoc
that an earthquake, ie, its intensity. Measured from I to XII. I is a perceived
slight tremor XII destruction with deaths. It is an objective scale, since it
depends on the materials the buildings are constructed with. Thus, in El
Salvador, an earthquake can produce quite a lot of deaths, but in Japan no
RICHTER SCALE: This scale measures the amount of energy released,
ie the magnitude. Is measured from 0 to 9.5. This is an objective scale,
since it speaks of the energy of the earthquake.

Builds in Tokyo (Japan)


Adobe buildings (South


In Spain, the seismic risk is moderated because we are not close to
any rift or trench. But we are near a transform fault that crosses the
Straits of Gibraltar and the peninsula shows a multitude of faults.
These are particularly important in sub Betic Cordilleras and the lift
area where failures are most important, and therefore, here there is
more seismic risk.


The manner in which seismic waves are transmitted into the interior
of the Earth, have allowed to deduce how the inner layers of our planet
Seismic waves can be of three types:
* P or longitudinal waves: They are spread across all media, solids, liquids
and gases, but are faster in solids. The particles vibrate in the same
direction than the direction of wave propagation.
* S or shear waves: It is transmitted only on solid media. The particles
vibrate in a direction perpendicular to the direction of wave propagation.
* Surface waves: its are transmitted on surface. They are responsible for
the destruction generated by earthquakes.

When an earthquake occurs, P and S waves are transmitted in

depth, both increase its speed, because the materials become more
compact. But when it reaches 70 km of depth, occurs a discontinuity in
the speed of propagation of both waves, and these slow down. This area is
known as the Mohorovicic discontinuity situated between the crust and
The wave velocity increases gradually, reaching the 100 km depth
where there is a slight decrease in velocity of both waves, which we
translate as waves pass through an semi-fluid area known as
From here, P and S waves significantly increase the speed. To reach the
2900 km depth where there is a great disturbance in the waves. The S
wave ceases to propagate and greatly decreases the P wave velocity. This
means that the solid mantle passed to a liquid outer core. The area is
known as the Gutenberg discontinuity.
In the outer core only spreads the P wave, which slowly recovers its
speed to reach the 5200 km depth where there is a new discontinuity. It
separates the liquid outer core and solid inner core is known as Lehman
From here the P-wave velocity increases substantially, reaching very
high speeds, and it is translated as the core is formed by an alloy of iron
and nickel.


Rocks are classified, according to their origin, into three types:
these are rocks formed by cooling and solidification of magma.
Depending on how this cooling happens, we can speak of three types of
magmatic rocks:
a) Volcanic rocks: rocks that are formed when the cooling is very fast on
the outside of the volcano. Minerals do not have time to solidify into large
crystals so the texture of the rock is called porphyritic texture, for
example, basalts. It is also common for rocks to have pores due to its high
content of gases (such as pumice), or when the cooling is very fast,
forming glassy rocks like obsidian.

b) Plutonic rocks: rocks that form when the cooling is very slow within
the magma chamber. Minerals have time to solidify into large crystals,
thus the rock texture is called granuda texture, for example, granite.

These are rocks formed from other rocks, which undergo increases
in pressure and / or temperature and the new rock is totally different. For
example, quartzite and slate are metamorphic rocks. Many times, when
there is an increase of pressure, the initial minerals are redistributed and
these are arranged into a position perpendicular to the direction of the
pressure. This is how it is transformed into another different rock. For
example, slate is formed from clay.

These are rocks formed from sediment. Sediment is transported to
sedimentary basins, where it accumulates. This is followed by the
digenesis process, comprising of:
1) Accumulation of sediments in the sedimentary basin.
2) Compaction of sediments under the weight of materials placed on top
of them.
3) Cementing: The water charged with bicarbonate of calcium, passes
through the remaining pores between the sediment and the evaporation is
accumulated in the form of carbonate, bicarbonate, cementing and
bonding the grains of sediment.
The sedimentary rock can be classified into several types. The most
important are conglomerates, breccias, sandstone, claystone, siltstone,
limestone, dolomite, coal, oil (only liquid rock) etc...