Take 2: Plate vs. Crust

2min Novice

What is the difference between the crust and the tectonic plate?

People often use the terms crust and tectonic plates interchangeably. It can be confusing because they are paired, and yet they are distinct from each other.

Earth’s outermost layers can be defined using two separate properties: Mechanical or Compositional.



  • Earth’s outermost layers can be defined using two separate properties:
  • Mechanical: The crust and uppermost brittle lithospheric mantle form the tectonic plate
  • Compositional: The crust differs compositionally from the lithospheric mantle 


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