Is the ocean floor older at a Mid-Ocean Ridge or at a Subduction Zone?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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At a mid-ocean ridge, the sea-floor is growing in size because material from the molten interior is added to the total sea-floor size; this occurs as tectonic plates move away from each other. At a subduction zone, the sea-floor is shrinking because the tectonic plate is pushing underneath another plate, recycling its material into the molten interior; this occurs as tectonic plates move towards each other. Because of this, the sea-floor is younger at a mid-ocean ridge; this material is expelled from the molten interior and solidifies in the colder water above. The sea-floor is older at a subduction zone, as that material has been moving away from its origin location ever since it became solid.

To simplify, sea-floor material is "birthed" at a mid-ocean ridge, becoming part of the sea-floor mass that moves towards a subduction zone, where it is recycled into the molten interior. This makes mid-ocean ridge sea-floor younger than subduction zone sea-floor.


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