What Is a Lithospheric Plate?

Lithospheric plates are another name for tectonic plates, which are part of the Earth’s uppermost layer, the crust. The term refers to the portions into which the crust is broken.

The Earth is made of three primary layers which include the core, the mantle, and the crust. The core is the center of the planet and the mantle, or asthenosphere, holds much of the molten rock and sediment as a middle layer. The lithosphere is the proper name of the crust and includes the continents, the ocean floor, and the upper asthenosphere. The complete lithosphere is approximately 60 miles deep. The continental lithosphere and oceanic lithosphere are each broken into large, rocky sections or plates. The plates move across the liquid layer of the athenosphere through a process called plate tectonics.

Earthquakes and other geologic events are caused by the movements of the lithospheric plates, particularly as they rub against one another. Additionally, volcanoes can form when the edges of two plates push against each other. As one plate moves beneath the edge of the second, the first is thrust upward. The molten layer within the asthenosphere may become disturbed by the action and begins to flow upward. Where eruptions allow the molten material to flow and build up, volcanoes form.