Central America Geography (02:43)
The region emerged from the sea 150 million years ago. Mexico's Sierra Madre mountain range formed when the Farallon plate sank below the North and South American plates.
Search for the Farallon Plate (02:18)
Geological traces of the tectonic plate are found in La Calidad Mine, where copper from the former ocean floor rises through cracks in the continental crust. Its subduction triggered Central America's construction and created the Pacific Plate.
Caribbean Plate Formation (04:02)
150 million years ago, a volcanic hot spot thickened and created a new tectonic plate. La Desirade Island's pillow lava formed on the ocean floor when hot lava met cold water. Radiolarite contains micro fossils dating to the Jurassic period.
La Desirade's Geological History (04:04)
As the American plates drifted west, the Caribbean Plate "moved" between them to the Atlantic. A 120,000 year old coral conglomerate formed over a 150 million year old basalt layer.
La Soufrière Volcanology (04:49)
The Atlantic Plate slid below the Caribbean Plate; magma rose to create volcanic islands. Researchers use a cosmic ray telescope to determine dome density. Acidic fluids have destabilized the interior and the volcano could collapse in an earthquake.
Ring of Fire (04:27)
In 1943, the Parícutin Volcano emerged within days in Mexico. The Pacific Plate is moving under the North American Plate, creating the greatest volcanic concentration in the Americas. Non-linear subduction has formed volcanoes of varying distances from the coast.
Xitle Volcano (02:37)
An eruption in Mexico City's valley destroyed Chuicuilco in 750 AD, creating a phenomenon similar to Pompeii. Basalt rock reveals lava flow information.
Basse-Terre Tsunami Risk (03:12)
Tectonic plates can cause underwater earthquakes and destructive waves. A Guadeloupe sea level monitoring station forms part of a regional alert system.
Grande Terre's Geological History (03:28)
Northern Caribbean tectonic activity has caused slow vertical seabed movements. Emergence of earth's crust created one of Guadeloupe's islands, visible in a limestone quarry in Sainet-Anne. Sea level fluctuations deposited sand on a coral reef.
Antilles Tectonics (02:12)
A bathymetrical and topographical map reveals complex fault lines on an oblique subduction zone; Marie-Galante is cut in two.
Haiti Seismology Research (04:46)
Port-au-Prince lies on a tectonic displacement zone. After the 2010 earthquake, scientists have been developing a seismic prediction system. GPS technology monitors ground movements to determine displacement speed and a seismograph network measures wave amplitude and direction.
Haiti Landscape (03:01)
Tectonic forces have created underground rivers and caverns such as such as the Bellony Caves in Pestel, subject to local superstition, and the Blue Hole in Belize.
Panama Ithsmus Formation (01:56)
Learn about the tectonic process that converged North and South America three million years ago. Recent Panama Canal construction will allow bigger vessels to pass between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Great American Interchange (03:19)
Panama Canal construction has exposed marsupial and mammal fossils, evidence of a corridor between the two continents that led to interbreeding species. The Panama Isthmus formation changed biology and global climate.
Central American Continental Future (01:20)
Developed over 100 million years, the region has created beautiful landscapes. New islands will form where it meets the Atlantic Plate.
Credits: Central America—Voyage of the Continents, Series 2 (01:01)
Credits: Central America—Voyage of the Continents, Series 2
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